Manchester City host Norwich City as the Blues welcome back fans to the Etihad. The game will not be televised live across the UK with kick-off at 3 pm.
Manchester City fans can finally watch their team live again this weekend as the Blues welcome back a full house to the Etihad Stadium for the first time since February 2020. It'll be a day of celebration as the fans see the Champions live for the first time in two years but there's business to attend to with Norwich in town. The Canaries lost to Liverpool on their return to the top flight comfortably but after beating City at the start of 2019/20, they'll be buoyed and confident that they can pull off a shock on City's big return.
The opposition: Norwich City
Last season's finish: 1st
Current league position: 19th
Top scorer: Teemu Pukki (26)
Top assisted: Emi Buendia (15)
Form guide: L
Last result: 0-3 vs Liverpool
Just like when they came up to the Premier League in 2019/20, the Canaries had a distinct style of play as they soared to promotion in the 20/21 season. Daniel Farke refused to adapt after going down for being too exposed, keeping to a possession-based style of play.
In possession, the Canaries averaged the most possession per 90 in the Championship (60%), which was 3% higher than Blackburn Rovers, who averaged a little over 56%. Farke's team were effective on the ball too, with the 2nd most progressive passes per 90 (75) - only a stat bettered by QPR. The team lost their main creative asset in Emi Buendia during the summer transfer window though, who joined Aston Villa for an estimated £35m fee.
On the defensive end though, Norwich had a lot of trouble that needs solving this season. Despite conceding the second-lowest number of goals in the league (31), they had the eleventh highest xGA, which says they were bailed out a lot and were fortunate. Norwich underperformed both their xG and xGA last season and Daniel Farke will be very aware of that going into this season.
Emi Buendia scored 15 and assisted a further 17 in the Championship last season for Norwich but has since left the club to join Aston Villa.
Replacing the Championship's player of the year was always going to be a difficult task. The club managed to loan in Billy Gilmour and sign Milot Rashica on a permanent deal but the club have kept the core of their team the same in the hope that they will be better equipped to take on the challenges of the Premier League this time around.
With Emi Buendia leaving the club, a key area for Norwich this season will be the full-backs. Farke loves his full-backs to be high and wide, with his two defensive midfielders dropping in to maintain a solid shape on defence. Emi Buendia, despite being a wide player, mostly came inside last season as Farke could rely on his full-backs to provide the width. That led to Buendia being a deadly creative threat in the middle of the pitch, so the acquisition of Billy Gilmour makes a lot of sense, with Farke wanting his creative threat to be in the middle area of the pitch.
One man who may be able to carry the burden that Buendia left is Teemu Pukki. The striker was electric to start the 19/20 season with goals vs Liverpool, Manchester City, and a hat-trick vs Newcastle but the striker faded as the season went on, leaving Norwich helpless. Pukki had a strong bounce-back season in the Championship though, scoring 26 goals as the club secured easy promotion back to the top flight. The question now is can he keep up a high scoring frequency or will he fade again?
Andrew Omobamidele - available (recovered from tonsilitis)
Onel Fernandez - available (missed last weekend due to lack of fitness)
Cristoph Zimmermann - OUT (illness)
Przemyslaw Placheta - OUT (Recovering from COVID-19)
Sam Byram - OUT (hamstring recovery)
Potential XI: Krul; Aarons, Hanley, Gibson, Giannoulis; Lees-Melou, Gilmour, Rupp; Cantwell, Pukki, Rashica
With City's wingers causing the Norwich wing-backs to sit deeper a lot more and the gaping creative hole left by Emi Buendia, City have all the tools to be able to cause Norwich serious issues when the teams clash. Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling could have huge games if Norwich choose to keep their full-backs high and wide which is why I'd tip the City wingers to be the ones who decide this encounter.
Referee: Graham Scott
Assistants: Harry Lennard, Simon Long
Fourth Official: Peter Bankes
VAR: Jonathan Moss
AVAR: Timothy Wood
Form Guide: The last five
Manchester City 2-1 Norwich - 31 October 2015
Norwich 0-3 Manchester City - 9 January 2016
Norwich 0-0 Manchester City - 12 March 2016
Norwich 3-2 Manchester City - 14 September 2019
Manchester City 5-0 Norwich - 26 July 2020
The Blue View:
League position: 13
Top scorer: N/A
Top assister: N/A
Form guide: L
Previous result: 0-1 v Tottenham
Manchester City were lacklustre in their first game of the season at Tottenham but intense training this week and the return of a full capacity Etihad Stadium on Saturday should see the Blues bounce back and claim their first win of the season. With an international break looming, Pep and the team will know that any more slip-ups heading into the first stoppage in the season will hand a major, major incentive to their rivals in the race for the title.
Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez both had a tough day out in North London but on home turf vs a team that loves to play their full-backs high up the pitch might provide them with the space they need to really burst their seasons into life.
City are yet to score this season having blanked in the Community Shield and their first league game of the season and the lack of a recognised striker has been telling. Could Pep provide a chance to Gabriel Jesus? That question remains to be answered but even without a recognised striker, this kind of fixture may be exactly what the Blues need to give the team a confidence boost to remind them who they are.
Manchester City have struggled in front of goal in the two games they've played this season but a game vs Norwich at home could see them find their groove again.
Ilkay Gundogan - questionable (shoulder)
Kevin De Bruyne - questionable (ankle)
Phil Foden - OUT (foot)
Potential XI: Ederson, Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko, Rodri, Gundogan, Grealish, Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling.
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