Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 21 October 2017
Referee: Roger East
Kick off: 15:00
UK TV: Not on TV
Manchester City have been able to maintain their marvellous form that had set the Premier League afire before the international break. Spearheaded by an outstanding Kevin De Bruyne, the Blues demolished Stoke with 7-2 last weekend before welcoming Italian league leaders Napoli to Manchester on Tuesday evening and running out 2-1 winners. Despite a somewhat nervy end to the game, an exceptional opening thirty minutes sufficed to beat one of the most in-form teams in Europe.
Returning to domestic duties, the next challenge for Guardiola’s side is Burnley. Sean Dyche’s team has enjoyed a good start to season, currently sitting 7th in the Premier League. Burnley have as many points as Chelsea after eight games played, with only a slightly worse goal difference separating them from the top five.
Pep confirmed on Friday that Vincent Kompany will not return against Burnley whilst Agüero, who was benched against Napoli, is in contention. Considering that Sterling, Sané, and Gabriel Jesus all have been starting consistently over the past few weeks, the Argentine has a chance of starting against the Clarets, giving at least one of the three a well-deserved rest. Benjamin Mendy is ruled out due to his long-term injury.
Shot-stopper Tom Heaton continues to miss out for Burnley due to injury and is joined on the sidelines by Dean Marney and Nakhi Wells. Irishmen Jonathan Walters will also miss the clash against City.
Burnley have started the season tremendously well. Dyche’s team have been able to hold Liverpool to a draw and beat Chelsea on the opening day of the season. Thus far, Burnley have only suffered defeats at the hands of West Brom (0-1) and Leeds, losing on penalties in the third round of the Carabao Cup.
Prior to the season, Burnley has been presumed to be one of the favourites for relegation along with Brighton and Huddersfield. This perception was mainly fuelled by the loss of Michael Keane, who left for Everton. The former Manchester United youth product developed into one of the Premier League’s leading centre-backs over the course of last season, ultimately resulting in his first call-up for England.
However, Burnley have dealt remarkably well with the loss of Keane. He was replaced by Ben Tarkowski, who enjoyed a decent season thus far. The current success is even more striking when considering that the money from the Keane deal has not been reinvested into any “star” players. Sean Dyche, who has been at the club since 2012, brought in Premier League veterans Jack Cork (previously at Swansea) as well as Phil Bardsley and Jonathan Walters (both Stoke). Back-up keepers Adam Legzdins and Anders Lindegaard have also joined, but are currently behind revelation Nick Pope, who has replaced the injured captain Tom Heaton well in goal. Nakhi Wells joined from Huddersfield but has not featured due to injury. Left-back Charlie Taylor joined from Leeds but is yet to feature regularly. The stand-out signing has certainly been Chris Wood. Also brought in from Leeds, the New Zealander has scored three times in six appearances, with two of these goals scored in the last five minutes of the game. The tall Kiwi (1.91m) functions as a target man for Burnley and his physicality could cause danger for City’s back-line.
Burnley have enjoyed a good start to the season, led by a resilient defence and an efficient attack that has been able to stun Liverpool and Chelsea earlier. With that said, City currently appear to be a class above the rest in the Premier League. City, at the minute, thrash teams that are very decent sides: Watford, for example, were absolutely steamrolled in the 0-6 loss to City, but beat Arsenal a week later. The source of City’s current success is not down to the opponent’s weakness; but City’s quality. I cannot see this changing against Burnley and will therefore go for a 3-0 win with Agüero scoring the opener.