They say there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal - so facing Manchester City attempting to recover from a loss means we are instantly up against it.
City’s defeat to Newcastle places real focus on their position in the table and their points gap between them and top spot. they will be keen to get back to winning ways, especially at home.
That spells bad news for us.
Considering that City haven’t lost two consecutive games for quite some time, and the last time we won an away game against top6 opposition for 20 games. Not only that, but we haven’t kept an away clean sheet at all this season in the Premiership.
All bad reading for us, and with Chelsea winning against Huddersfield, it means should we lose, we lose ground on the top four, on tottenham and we leave the door open to Manchester United. There is still time to get out of the mire, but every dropped point means more the later the season goes.
The games run out, so does the points.
So, who can we rely on to help us stage the unlikeliest of victories?
We have new signing Denis Suarez available and the Spaniard could be thrust into the side, but most likely will be he will make his debut from the bench.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be assessed before kickoff, but his lengthy layoff means he too will most likely be amongst the substitutes.
How’s about our defence? Laurent Koscielny has recovered from his jaw injury and should be available, but Sokratis is still out. A big blow looks to be the doubt on Ainsley Maitland-Niles. the young midfielder-turned defender looks to be our go-to right-back when Hector Bellerin is injured. With the Spaniard out for the season, Maitland-Niles seemed to have his season set out, but he will probably miss this game, giving Stephan Lichtsteiner another chance to show there is life in the old dog yet.
Granit Xhaka didn’t take part in training, so midfield could comprise Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi. This still has the potential to offset Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho, but it will be our defence under scrutiny.
Still, we still have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette firing goals, and if Mesut Ozil plays, he always has the potential to open up and make a massive difference.
Player to Watch
The blitzkrieg wideman has been a little off the boil recently, compared to the start of the season when he was banging in goals. Still, we have shown a real weakness to lightning quick breaks, and there is one player above all at City who can hurt us in that regard - Sterling.
We need to mark him tightly, but Guardiola has worked his magic with him and his position is not exactly fixed. We will need the likes of Torreira and Guendouzi to track runners when we are on the front foot, as one ball could slice us open.
How will this go?
We will have to recreate the pressing we employed versus Chelsea, and maintain it for at least 85 minutes. This hasn’t happened consistently so far, and anything below this level will see us merely keeping a respectable scoreline in defeat.
Sergio Aguero is prolific against us and will be champing at the bit to get at our weak backline, one that is shuffled through injury lay-offs.
City won’t turn up like they did at St James Park last week. Guardiola will have left his players with the strictest instructions on what to do to get back to winning ways, and their motivations will be sky high.
I can’t see anything other than defeat, but if we can turn this into a goal war, we at least have an iota of a chance. If we go to the Etihad and look to sit back and rely on our defence, then we will be taken to the cleaners.