14 in a row? – Watford vs Manchester City Preview
After a tiring but crucial victory over Aston Villa in midweek, Manchester City travel to Vicarage Road to face Watford. City head into the game second in the Premier League table, a point behind leaders Chelsea, and a point ahead of third-placed Liverpool.
After a spell of weakness within the Manchester City squad, Pep Guardiola is finally able to call upon reinforcements. John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker all return to the squad. Jack Grealish and Phil Foden had returned to the bench in the previous game against Aston Villa, but neither are up to full fitness. Only Ferran Torres remains unavailable for selection as things stand.
On the fitness of the squad, Pep said:
"Except Ferran, all of them are ready to travel to Watford. Much better [to have a healthier squad], I said before Villa we need everyone much better."
Predicted City XI:
Ederson, Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo, Rodri, Gundogan, Bernardo, Mahrez, Sterling, Jesus
Referee: Kevin Friend
Assistants: Adrian Holmes, Darren Cann
Fourth official: Simon Hooper
VAR: John Brooks
Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis
Venue: Vicarage Road
Pep Guardiola has broken another record. He is the quickest manager to 150 Premier League wins, completing the feat in just 204 games. Incredible achievement. He turns now though to Watford; a team City have beaten the last thirteen times consecutively.
He faces his next test, yet again, without a striker to turn to. City this season have had 17 different goalscorers, and while this might not show in the league table, it does show in the goals scored column. After 14 games, City have scored four goals less than Chelsea and a sizeable 14 goals less than Liverpool.
On the lack of a single goalscorer Pep stated:
“We have no top scorer upfront who creates something out of nothing. We have to do it as a team.”
It’s working so far, with City bang smack in the title race.
In good news, Raheem Sterling was even closer to his best at Aston Villa on Wednesday. I said after the West Ham game that he was looking much sharper. The goals are returning and that’s a good sign, but the performances are too. A full fit and firing Raheem Sterling can win us the title, he’s that good. Let’s hope the current trajectory holds strong.
City overall are in great form, with six wins on the bounce. Three of those six were victories by a single goal margin, which suggests the defence could do with a little tightening. This is nit-picking, however, as we did win those games. We deserved to as well.
The Premier League title race is in full swing. The three front runners are beginning to pull away from the pack, with the gap between third and fourth now sitting at seven points. City have to make sure they remain in the hunt. The three points are vital, and the competition strong. Pep and the boys have been there and done that though, and I’m sure they will again.
Claudio Ranieri’s outfit have huge injury concerns. Number one goalkeeper Ben Foster remains sidelined with a groin injury. Ken Sema is out with a knee injury. Francisco Sierralta is out with a hamstring pull. Nicolas Nkoulou also has a hamstring injury. Ismaila Sarr has a knee problem. Adam Masina has yet another hamstring issue and Kwadwo Baah has an ankle problem. Compared to Pep Guardiola’s easing injury list, Claudio Ranieri has mountains to climb.
In their last outing they made life very difficult for league leaders Chelsea, but ultimately, they lost the game. They find themselves now in 17th place in the league table, just three points ahead of the relegation zone. If results elsewhere go against them, and they lose to City, they could end the day in the drop zone.
I’m sure this will be playing on their minds heading into this game. They will likely sit deep and fight against every chance City try and create, but with 26 goals conceded already this season, I can’t see them prevailing.
Watford’s recent league form: LLWLL
Predicted Watford XI:
Bachmann; Kiko, Troost-Ekong, Cathcart, Rose; Kucka, Cleverley, Sissoko; Dennis, Pedro, King
Recent History vs Watford:
Manchester City and Watford have only met on 31 occasions, with City prevailing in 20 of those. Watford have won six of them, with five games ending a draw. Going back to a 3-0 home win for City in the FA Cup in 2013, City have beaten Watford thirteen games in a row. The aggregate score of those thirteen games being 50-6 in City’s favour.
I can’t predict anything other than a comprehensive City victory. With City’s numerous strengths, Watford’s injury crisis and the recent head-to-head record, I can’t see anything else. I’m going for a 0-3 away win, with a goal from Bernardo Silva and a brace from Raheem Sterling.
Written by: @CityReportBen
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