City within touching distance of 7th league title - Manchester City vs Leeds United Preview
Manchester City invite Leeds United to the Etihad Stadium as they aim to go three points closer to their third Premier League title in four years. As everyone who watches football will know, beating Leeds is no walk in the park, the newly promoted Championship side are currently fighting for a top-half finish. A win against Marcelo Bielsa's side would take Guardiola and co to within 8 points of regaining the Premier League crown.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistant Referees: Scott Ledger, Richard West
Fourth Official: Peter Bankes
VAR: David Coote
Assistant VAR: Peter Kirkup
Andre Marriner's last City appointment was against Fulham in the 3-0 away win at Craven Cottage, where John Stones, Gabriel Jesus, and Sergio Aguero got on the scoresheet.
The Sky Blues will be out for revenge as after City's convincing 2-0 win against Leicester last weekend, they face an opposition who are now the only opposition Pep Guardiola has faced this season and failed to beat. The previous result was a 1-1 drawback in October when Raheem Sterling scored City's only goal of the game.
City's last outing against Leeds was a 1-1 draw, with Rodrigo punishing Ederson's error to tie the scores. Ruben Dias also made his debut in that fixture and has been a stalwart since.
As Guardiola's side are the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday, a City win will temporarily extend their lead at the top, to 17 points. Leeds are 11th, joint on points with Mikel Arteta's Arsenal, but a win for them would see them temporarily jump into the ninth position, ahead of The Gunners and Aston Villa.
The Citizens come into this fixture in great spirits after their first-ever Champions League Quarter-Final first-leg win, against Borussia Dortmund, midweek. Phil Foden's 90th-minute winner won his side the game 2-1.
City fans' week got even better the morning after the win, as the announcement of Kevin De Bruyne's contract extension, keeping him at the club for a total of 10 years, until 2025. The Belgian pledged his future to the club by signing the contract on Monday, without an agent.
Kevin De Bruyne's new deal takes his time at City to ten years if he fulfils it, making him eligible for a testimonial and in that becoming the fourth City player since the takeover to have played at the club for an entire decade after David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero.
The next couple of weeks can potentially define City's season, as within the next two and a half weeks, they play the return leg of the Champions League Quarter-Finals against Dortmund, an FA Cup Semi-Final against Chelsea and also the Carabao Cup Final against Jose Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur.
But before all of that happens, Pep's main focus will be on the Leeds fixture and how to beat the great tactician that is Marcelo Bielsa. With a fully fit squad and players such as Raheem Sterling, who have been on the bench recently, eager to prove a point that they're still at the level they have previously shown, the Spaniard is already at more of an advantage than he was when the two sides previously faced.
Bielsa brings his side to the Etihad, to face a team that have won 27 out of their last 28 games, so it will be by no means an easy task to repeat their previous draw. Bielsa is well known for his stubborn approach and despite City's near immaculate record, you would bet on him to set his side up to take the game to the Manchester side. The history books have come out in City's favour, winning 45 games against Saturday's opposition, while they have returned the favour 42 times. There has been 18 draws between the two sides.
Sergio Aguero was on target the last time Manchester City hosted Leeds at the Etihad Stadium in 2013 when the club were managed by Neil Warnock and City under Roberto Mancini.
A question that might seem very repetitive by now, is, what starting XI will the City manager field?
There is a rather mutual feeling amongst City fans that Ruben Dias needs a well-deserved rest, which no one can really argue with.
So with all of City's potential, season-defining fixtures taking place soon, bared in mind, Guardiola may field a heavily rotated lineup, giving his most in-form players, time on the bench.
Ederson, Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Torres, Aguero, Sterling
Aymeric Laporte could be brought in for Dias, while Benjamin Mendy may retain his spot in the Premier League starting XI after a very solid performance against Leicester. An entirely new front three could be in for a start as Sterling requires some club game time if he is to get himself back in Guardiola's best XI, and you would expect Sergio Aguero to start every game with a little less meaning to it between now and the end of the season. Who'd have thought it would have ever got to that point?
Raheem Sterling could be rewarded with a start after his assist against Leicester, joining a front three of Sergio Aguero and Ferran Torres, who scored two during the international break.
BT Sport1 are Saturday's broadcasters, with the game kicking off at 12:30 BST.