Venue: KCOM Stadium
Date: 26 December 2016
Referee: Robert Madley
Kick off: 17:15
It’s that time of year again! Every side has to play eleven games in three days, unless you’re Chelsea and you get a nice rest between each match. I’m just kidding (kind of, Chelsea have somehow managed to snag themselves some lovely recovery periods). It’s time for the festive period.
City face Hull on Boxing Day. Pep’s men travel to Yorkshire with two consecutive league wins behind them for what feels like the first time in forever. So, what is there to consider?
There is Little Room for Error
If you’re still of the opinion that City are able to win the league title this year (and I am), there is very little room for error. With City trailing Chelsea by 7 points, things don’t exactly look rosy as it is. Then again, we’ve come back from bigger deficits to win titles. If City are to chase down Antonio Conte’s men though, there is very little in terms of wiggle room when it comes to poor results. Chelsea face Bournemouth and Stoke at home in the next two days, and you can’t see them dropping points in either. City on the other hand face Hull away, followed by a difficult looking trip to Anfield. The latter of the two isn’t exactly a fixture that City have had much luck with over the years. In honesty, that task looks even harder this time round with Jurgen Klopp’s side playing some very good football. By error, I don’t necessarily mean that City can’t drop any points. So, looking at the fixtures, if we can secure four points from our next two games, that’ll be a good return. In the New Year, City will need to go on some sort of run, as well as relying on a mini-Chelsea collapse if they are to turn the title race around. 5 months is a long time in football though.
Cash-in on Leroy Sané’s Confidence
I’ve been critical of the young German winger all year. At times, he’s looked uninterested and lacking in quality. However, in the last couple of outings, Leroy has perked up. A few people have told me that he’s been fantastic all year. I’m really not sure about that. For me, the kid still has a lot to learn from Pep and co. Against Arsenal though, he made his step toward realising his potential. What became clear a matter of seconds after Sané’s cool finish against the Gunners is that confidence will be everything to the young man. Maybe it’s unfair to have ever assumed it wouldn’t be. After all, this is a young guy, with only one season of senior football behind him. He’s stepped into a Pep Guardiola side, and at times I’ve forgotten his inexperience. The second the game resumed following his equaliser against Arsenal, the new spring in his step was apparent. On Monday, Pep needs to cash-in on this. Start the youngster against Hull and have him run with the ball as often as possible. If our great manager can evoke the best out of Sané, we have a fantastic weapon to add to our already-great selection.
Two Wins Don’t Make Our Defence Capable
If there’s one thing to remember about City’s two consecutive league wins, it’s that they don’t make our defence strong. When we travel to Hull, I’m still expecting City to require multiple goals to take all three points. In honesty, the performance against Arsenal was excellent, but how much of that was down to our opponent’s inefficiency, I’m not sure. Both full-backs in the second half played excellently, a sentence that I feel like I haven’t written since 2012 under Roberto Mancini. Even Otamendi and Kolarov managed to turn in good performances. But City fans, don’t be fooled. I know most of you probably won’t be, but this does not mean that these players are now reliable. Work still needs to be done in January. Obviously, City have Gabriel Jesus joining, but that’s a different matter entirely. If City signed two defenders in January, you could still argue that it isn’t enough. If City sign one though, at least it’ll be a start. As it is, even the comedy show that we have at the back should be looking to keep Hull out. I’m not convinced though, so let’s hope our attacking outlets have their shooting boots on.
For City, I’m going to echo Stuart Brennan’s thoughts that Leroy Sané is in for a big game on Monday. I think he’ll possibly prove to be City’s most effective outlet against the Tigers. For Hull, Robert Snodgrass is the best of a bad bunch. The Scottish midfielder tends to have a goal in him, which spells danger for our questionable defenders.
No messing about, I’m expecting a strong performance from City. Plenty of goals, but no clean sheet. Leroy Sané to have a stormer. 4-1.
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