- Tom Kilmartin
Everything you need to know, Predicted XI – Manchester City vs Wolverhampton Wanderers Preview
After a magnificent comeback against Tottenham in mid-week, Manchester City will welcome Wolves to the Etihad on Sunday, 22 January, for the early afternoon kick-off. City will be looking to keep up the momentum from the Spurs win and prove to Pep Guardiola that they have the appetite for a title race. The match will kick off at 14:00 (GMT) and will not be televised live in the UK.
Guardiola ruthlessly benched half of his traditional first XI against Tottenham; Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Joao Cancelo, and Kyle Walker were all sent a message by the Catalan in mid-week. He reinforced this in an electric post-match interview, where he referred to the players as lacking ‘passion and desire’. Time will tell whether Guardiola feels that his team have responded to him.
City have an apparently fully fit squad for Sunday’s match, though Ruben Dias may be lacking some minutes, and Rico Lewis was the victim of numerous Spurs fouls throughout Thursday night’s fixture.
The wing pairing of Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish was superb against Spurs. Mahrez, in particular, showed a return in Guardiola’s trust with a stand-out second-half performance. Julian Alvarez showed excellent all-round play in the #10 position, but De Bruyne will be vying for the position and is likely to make the starting XI.
Meanwhile, Erling Haaland’s equaliser may have helped him regain his confidence, perhaps giving him the edge over Alvarez, who is likely less favourable against the low block that Wolves will likely present against City.
Rodri is certain to start in the holding midfield role. To accompany him, Guardiola may go with Bernardo Silva over Ilkay Gundogan. The Portuguese midfielder’s cameo showed some of the desire that Guardiola urged his players to find in his post-game press conference.
Guardiola’s defence varies wildly each week, but John Stones’ form guarantees him a start. Rico Lewis continues to shine, though he may be rested after seemingly coming off due to a slight knock. Dias could make his return on Sunday; City fans are keen to see a more stable backline, and Dias’ reintegration could help. Nathan Ake has been consistently good on the left side of the defence, though Cancelo’s creativity could win him a place in the starting XI against the tight defensive structure of Wolves.
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo; Rodri, Bernardo, De Bruyne; Grealish, Haaland, Mahrez
Julen Lopetegui’s Wolverhampton Wanderers come to the Etihad with the knowledge that they can cause City problems. Spanish winger Pablo Sarabia, formerly of Paris Saint-Germain, has been brought in to reinforce the attack, which has missed the threat of the injured Pedro Neto. Other January additions include Matheus Cunha, on loan from Atletico Madrid, as well as Mario Lemina, who impressed on his debut in a win against West Ham.
Wolves currently sit 16th in the Premier league table and are coming off the back of an FA Cup loss to Liverpool in a third-round replay. They’re out of both cups and are arguably looking at a relegation battle. Their poor form this season has oft been attributed to the lack of an obvious goal scorer in the team; Diego Costa and Raul Jimenez have not scored in the Premier League this season.
Wolves’ promise lies in their midfield, where Ruben Neves, Matheus Nunes, and Joao Moutinho complete a midfield three that can go up against the very best. Combine this midfield talent with the all-around improvement under Lopetegui, a star goalkeeper in Jose Sa, and Wolves have reason to be optimistic against City.
Played: 127 Won: 53 Drawn: 25 Lost: 49
City have won their last five games against Wolves, all of which have come in the Premier league. Before this streak of consistency, Wolves were considered a struggle for City. This was inspired by their three in a row against City in 2019, taking six points off the eventual runners-up.
The reverse fixture at the Molineux included the highlight of Jack Grealish’s first goal of the season, which came after significant criticism from the City fans and media for his performance in the Champions League.
Grealish’s early opener was added to by two quality goals from Erling Haaland and Phil Foden. A red card for Wolves defender Nathan Collins helped make it a comfortable 3-0 victory for City.
Referee: David Coote Assistants: Lee Betts & Timothy Wood Fourth Official: Thomas Bramall VAR: Darren England Assistant VAR: Ian Hussin
Written by: @TomKilm04
Follow our Twitter account for reliable, live updates on all the latest news and everything Manchester City in real time.