Following their disappointing defeat to Chelsea, which has made Pep Guardiola admit his side have no chance of winning the title, Manchester City return to action with the visit of Hull City on Saturday.
That result means the Spaniard’s debut season in the Premier League has brought the highest number of losses in his managerial career, currently standing at six. The reality of that statistic is that his side is now in a battle for Champions League qualification, they sit in fourth place with only a four-point cushion over Arsenal and Manchester United, having played an extra game.
The visit of Hull would usually look like respite, in comparison to their last three opponents: Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, but The Tigers have been rejuvenated under Marco Silva, who could yet steer them to safety. Fortunately for The Citizens, he hasn’t found a solution to their abysmal away record.
Man City’s only victory in their last five league outings was over bottom-placed Sunderland. This is, however, partly due to aforementioned tough recent fixtures, and they are unbeaten in five at the Etihad.
Hull, meanwhile, have won three of their last five, but all of their wins have come at home. In fact, the Yorkshire based club have just a single victory on the road this season, which came in their first away game, against Swansea City, back in August.
For a team who began with intentions of a title challenge, The Sky Blues have been poor at home, winning only 50% of their games so far; which is worse than their away record (62%).
In the last six meetings between the two, The Citizens are unbeaten, having picked up 16 of a maximum 18 points.
Guardiola has opted for a different formation in each of his last three games, continuing a trend shown throughout the seasons of changing things regularly. At times this has left pundits and commentators perplexed as to which players are starting where when the teamsheets are given out. Midweek 4-2-3-1 was favoured, as it was in their last home game against a team outside the top-six, so this seems most likely.
Marco Silva has followed a similar style, particularly in his mission to pick up points on the road. In their last seven matches, Hull have lined up in no less than six varying formations. The one which appears most suited for the trip to Manchester is 4-1-4-1, particularly after the 5-4-1 experiment at Everton went so badly wrong.
Manchester City Hull City
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Manchester City have no fresh injury concerns, Ilkay Gundogan has missed much of the season and will not return for its duration, and Gabriel Jesus remains out after his bright start at the club.
Hull have several important players unavailable: Tom Huddlestone (usually the anchor in 4-1-4-1) serves the last match of his suspension, Dieumerci Mbokani has been absent with a hamstring issue but could return. Harry Maguire suffered a knock on Wednesday and remains a doubt, as does Abel Hernandez who was injured in the same game. Ryan Mason continues his rehabilitation from fracturing his skull in January.
Verdict: Manchester City 2:1 Hull City
The Citizens may have been shaky as of late and less than impressive all season, but can look to finish the season strongly now that Vincent Kompany has returned. The commanding Belgian centre-back has been sorely missed in Guardiola’s leaky defence.
Marco Silva has given Hull a great chance of survival, after taking on what seemed a near impossible job back in January. His side are out of the bottom three and will surely stay there, should their home form continue.
Games like this won’t decide The Tigers’ fate and a trip to the Etihad is not the best opportunity to improve a woeful away record. They should, however, cause their hosts enough problems to keep the scoreline close.