Manchester City vs Middlesbrough: Match preview and predicted line-ups
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are looking to round off a perfect week with victory over Middlesbrough at the Etihad. Having gone three league games without a win, City dismantled West Brom 4-0 at the Hawthorns last weekend before dispatching Barcelona 3-1 in a thrilling encounter on Tuesday. Guardiola’s men sit top of the league by virtue of goal difference, and need to keep winning with Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea in close pursuit. Quite how the Citizens will line up is anybody’s guess, with Guardiola liable to spring a tactical surprise at any moment. City have played a back three in recent home games, but their two victories this week were based on a back four. Kevin de Bruyne has returned from injury and looks in fine fettle; the Belgian gives City added directness and end product.
Middlesbrough would have expected to be in a relegation battle for the season’s entirety but are sitting quite comfortably at present, three points above the relegation zone and only two points from 10th. Aitor Karanaka’s side need to start racking up wins at the Riverside, but this clash with the league leaders is a very much a shot to nothing for them.
Boro earned their first home win of the season last weekend, seeing off Bournemouth 2-0 at the Riverside. That built upon their credible 0-0 draw at the Emirates the previous week, two results which show Karanka’s has his team well organised defensively. City spanked West Brom last time out, but were held to two 1-1 draws by Everton and Southampton in their last couple of home league game
Manchester City starting XI Middlesbrough starting XI
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Injuries and Suspensions
Bacary Sagan and Fabian Delph remain sidelined for the host with a thigh and hip problem respectively. Fernandinho picked up a knock against Barcelona and is currently being assessed. Last week’s goalscoring hero Gaston Ramirez is suspended for Middlesbrough having picked up five bookings already this season. Daniel Ayala face a late fitness test but Marten de Roon and Cristhian Stuani are expected to make it.
After a few difficult games that saw Guardiola fiercely questioned in the press, City have found their mojo again and ought to record another comfortable win in this game. The pace of Adama Traore has the potential to cause City a few problems, but apart from him Middlesbrough are not exactly blessed with attacking potential. They played extremely well at Arsenal, sitting quite deep and not giving the Gunners any space between the lines t operate in.
However, City have proved very adept and breaking down this type of defence. If there is a weakness at City it is playing out from the back against a good pressing team, but Karanka’s side are unlikely to pursue this tactic. With Sergio Aguero and de Bruyne firing, and Ilkay Gundogan beginning to settle in and pull the strings in midfield, City look a formidable force. There have been a few teething problems at Eastlands in recent weeks, but any team that finishes above City will have a great chance of winning the title.
Verdict: Home Win
Featured image: All rights reserved by Habergaraj
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