After a superb start to life in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola has found himself in something of a rut. His side are now winless in six games in all competitions following their 1-0 EFL Cup defeat at city rivals Manchester United, and they now face a trip to the Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon to take on Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion, who haven’t won themselves since September 17th, and will be just as desperate to get back to winning ways to put daylight between themselves and lower midtable.
The Baggies have just one win in five going into their home clash against a high-flying, yet out of sorts, Manchester City. Their last Premier League outing was a 2-1 reverse at Anfield against Liverpool, and their last victory came at the Hawthorns back in September, with a 4-2 win at home to West Ham. They can take solace from the fact that they have only lost one of their four games since then however, having drawn the other three. They will however have to be at their best against a Manchester City side who have found the Baggies favourable opposition in years gone by, with the hosts winless against the Citizens in their last 13 Premier League meetings (D1, L12). You’d have to go all the way back to 2010 for their last win against City in any competition, when they came out on top 2-1 at the Hawthorns in the League Cup.
City of course are in a poor run of form. Since their epic 3-3 draw in the Champions League, the wheels seem to have come off for Guardiola’s team, with three defeats and two draws since then leaving them winless in six, their most recent of course being their EFL Cup exit to bitter rivals Manchester United. They can take encouragement however from their strong record over the Albion, and with the Hawthorns a happy hunting ground in years gone by for the Citizens, Guardiola will see this game as an ideal opportunity for the Etihad club to reignite their campaign.
Tony Pulis has been given the boost of being able to recall Jonny Evans following suspension, but will have to contend with the loss of Claudio Yacob who has amassed five yellow cards. James McClean is in contention but doubtful after lacerating a shin, whilst Saido Berahino is likely to be omitted after the club put him on a new fitness regime to get him into shape. Craig Gardner and James Morrison are favourites to replace Yacob and McClean, whilst Chris Brunt could make his long-awaited return to league action following an ACL injury.
Vincent Kompany isn’t expected to feature this weekend for the visitors after asking to be withdrawn due to fatigue at half-time in the Manchester Derby EFL Cup tie on Wednesday. Pep Guardiola may also have his hand forced into playing 19-year-old right back Pablo Maffeo on Saturday following his impressive display in the derby, with Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta both out.
Ilkay Gundogan is likely to partner Davis Silva in centre-midfield, with Kevin de Bruyne doubtful after missing the midweek defeat at Old Trafford with a calf problem. Jesus Navas is favourite to continue on the right of midfield, and Sergio Aguero is expected to start after coming on as a substitute in midweek.
West Bromwich Albion predicted starting XI Manchester City predicted starting XI
West Brom will be without midfielder Claudio Yacob after he picked up his fifth booking of the season in the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool. West Brom do however, welcome Jonny Evans back from suspension. James McClean injured his shin against Liverpool and is rated doubtful for the visit of Manchester City.
Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta are both struggling with injuries and are likely to sit out of the trip to the West Midlands. Kevin de Bruyne missed the 1-0 defeat away to Manchester United and remains doubtful with a calf injury, whilst Fabian Delph also remains a doubt. Yaya Touré will miss the trip to the Hawthorns through suspension.
Manchester City’s recent form has been a concern, particularly with only two goals scored in their last four games in all competitions. With Pep Guardiola’s credentials really starting to come into question for the first time, he will be firing shots at his team to get them to respond, particularly after their defeat in the week. This match seems to be the ideal opportunity.
Tony Pulis’ Baggies will be well-drilled, and at home will prove a tough test for the Citizens, but they need to get back to winning ways sometime, and the quality that City have all over the pitch should just prove too much for them. The Baggies have only won two matches all season but are three points above the bottom three, with four other teams bridging the gap between the Baggies and the relegation places.
Guardiola’s side have revealed something of a soft underbelly at the back in recent weeks and the Albion do have the quality to hurt them, but they should prove a little too hot for the hosts to handle. Anything other than a win at this point would be unthinkable for Guardiola, and he will be desperate to ensure his side don’t make a habit of not winning.
City have also won each of their last six matches against West Brom and scored at least two goals in each of those matches. Guardiola rested some of his key men in midweek and their freshness should give them the edge at the weekend. They’ll unnecessarily over-complicate affairs at times, but we fancy City to come out on top 3-1.
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