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It’s been around two months since these two last met at the Etihad and not much has changed, other than Leicester swapping 2nd for 3rd. A win could put the Foxes 1 point behind the Citizens, much like it did for Manchester side when they came from behind to win 3-1 in December.
Pep Guardiola’s side returned from their winter break to an impending 2 year ban from the Champions League. Luckily for them, their first match back was against a West Ham side that looks destined to go down. If you happened to watch that over the Champions League on Wednesday, you either bleed City blue, love the Hammers no matter what, or couldn’t be arsed to pay to watch the one interesting game on television.
No matter your choice dear reader, if you missed it, City won the most unmemorable and convincing 2-0 imaginable. City managed 20 shots, 78% possession, and still the 7 they managed on target were a yawn fest. Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne got the goals, Gabriel Jesus showed less confidence in front of goal than I’ve ever seen in Kelechi Iheanacho, and maybe just maybe Pep will decide to rotate his squad against us.
We all know this will once again be the game Riyad Mahrez shows up for City, it’s a given as it’s payback for him having to wait until they paid the right price, but who’s to say that £60 million they paid for him didn’t come from the over-inflated sponsorship deal that has landed City in hot water?
Anyway, enough of my conspiracy theory, KDB absolutely destroyed us last time. He had a match high score of 9.1 from whoscored.com, completed 28/34, had 7 key passes and 1 assist. While a rotated side to prepare for Champions League would benefit them and us, I fully expect Pep to line up similarly to how he did last time out against and set up his attacking players to sit just in front of our back for and behind whoever plays at CDM.
The one thing to come out of having nobody to play CDM is that this time everyone will have to put in a shift if we want to get a positive result. That wasn’t the case in the 3-1 defeat, and while certain Man City players had motivation to play above their normal level, looking at you Riyad, we saw against Wolves that Ben Chilwell can put in a solid shift against a top winger.
Brendan Rodgers really has his work cut out for him creating a game plan for this match after the suspension of Hamza Choudhury. Mike Dean was clearly more interested in prepping for his appearance in That Peter Crouch Podcast than paying attention to what was happening on the field when he decided to book Hamza for a clean and honest tackle for his first yellow. That doesn’t excuse Hamza for the second offense though, where he really should’ve known to just let it go as he had ample cover with the player stuck at midfield.
There are three options I see for Brendan to try and overcome this issue. The first is Dennis Praet at CDM. He’s got good pace and can put a shift in and has pretty good ball recovery. The second is to bring Ryan Bennett on and play him as part of a 3 at CB to face what will certainly be a front 3 from City, but that still leaves gaps in midfield for them to exploit. The third is the more wild of the bunch: play Çağlar Söyüncü at CDM. He’s quick, moves the ball well, and can put in a well timed tackle.
Harvey Barnes assisted Jamie Vardy to open the scoring in the 3-1 defeat to City and I believe he is the man that can help us to victory on Saturday. You’ll need a Ouija board to know who Pep will play at CB come match day, but none of them can handle the pace of Harvey and Jamie combined. If Rodgers can work out a way where both of them can sit up on their defense and receive balls over the top, they could each get on the scoreboard and help us to a vital three points.
I would take a draw right now if offered, and I think we could earn a 0-0 or 1-1- draw on Saturday. Obviously all three points would shorten the gap to 2nd place and put some space between us and the pack chasing 4th, but I don’t think our place in Europe hinges on this game but instead the four after it. I do think we could get a cheeky 2-1 victory if everyone performs out of their skin, so I’ll hope for that.