Nothing to lose: Town vs Man City – The Preview

Be honest, is anyone expecting us to get anything less than a caning on Sunday?

It’s a very strange feeling building up to a game all week in the knowledge that there is a 99.9% chance that your team will lose.

With the ridiculous time of a 4pm kick-off on a Sunday for a football game due to the folks over at Sky Sports, Town fans go into this game against the league leaders with a sense of dread mixed with a slight tinge of optimism.

The only reason for that is we experienced these same feelings of dread before we played Man United and look how that turned out.

However, a lot of factors went for us that day; an off-colour Man U team who looked like they hadn’t got off the team bus in the first half, a first-half game-ending injury to Phil Jones with his replacement Victor Lindelof gifting us at least one goal and a monumental defensive performance by Schindler and Zanka.

This Man City team are a different outfit. After a £200m+ transfer outlay in the summer, manager Pep Guardiola currently has his team playing some of the best football to ever grace the Premier League.

He can pick any four of Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus and they will rip apart nearly every defence they come up against.

Even high-flying teams like Napoli who are topping Serie A got taken apart 4-2 at the Stadio San Paolo.

Kevin de Bruyne is in the form of his life, topping assists charts and playing the kind of incisive passing that makes your jaw drop on a regular basis.

Raheem Sterling is a man reborn, released from the metaphorical shackles he seems to play with when playing for England and Leroy Sane is petrifying opposition full-backs with his searing pace and thunderous strikes at goal.

Not much to worry about then eh?

Many pundits are already (a bit prematurely) talking about an unbeaten season to equal the Arsenal title-winning ‘Invincibles’ team of 2003/2004.

Whilst I think they will certainly lose at least one game between now and then, even at this still early stage, it is hard to see any other team catching them, especially given the rest of the ‘top 6’’s lack of consistency.

The only positive we have to cling onto as Town fans is a) the influence of the John Smith’s Stadium and our vociferous crowd and b) defensive injuries to Man City.

Already without Benjamin Mendy, John Stones has now become the latest defensive casualty, tearing his hamstring in the win against Leicester last week. And while Vincent Kompany looks particularly wobbly on his 200th comeback from injury, their defence certainly doesn’t look like the unbreachable dam that it’s looked like recently.

The trouble will be getting the ball to even get near City’s goal.

Any time the opposition lose the ball to Man City, they look like they only need to string 2-3 passes together to be in a goal-scoring position.

Their pace, speed of thought and movement is artistry at times and we will have to take a few bookings to stop this juggernaut from overwhelming us completely.

Key Battles

Chris Schindler vs Sergio Aguero

Fresh from his one-match suspension, we have sorely missed Chris Schindler’s influence at the back for us and reuniting his partnership with Zanka will be crucial to us getting anything from this game.

I would imagine Sergio Aguero will start having been benched for the game against Leicester but he played midweek against Feyernoord in the Champions League so who knows what Guardiola will go with.

Irrespective, Schindler will have to give Aguero zero space in the penalty area and be super sharp on his movement when tracking him in the box.

One lapse of concentration and Aguero will capitalise, as he has done time and time again for City over the years.

Tommy Smith vs Leroy Sane

If Wagner rotates his full-backs again and goes with a more defensive mindset, then club captain Tommy Smith will come into the side at the expense of Florent Hadergjonaj.

He will probably face the toughest test he will get all season in the shape of Leroy Sane.

Since his move from Schalke and after a season of acclimatising to the Premier League, Sane is realising the potential which made Man City pay the big money for him.

Pace, delivery and finishing, Sane is everything you want in a wide-player and more and I suspect Tommy will struggle to cope with him.

Chris Loewe vs Raheem Sterling

As previously mentioned, if Wagner goes with a more defensive mindset, then Chris Loewe will come in for Scott Malone and will also face one of the hardest tests of his career in Raheem Sterling.

The often-maligned England winger has been banging goals for fun for Guardiola and clearly loves life under the Spaniard who has allowed him to go and express himself.

I also suspect that Loewe will struggle to contain the former QPR man and Wagner may well have to use all four full-backs on Sunday to ensure it is not a rout.

Kevin de Bruyne vs Aaron Mooy

The creator-in-chief vs the wizard of Oz. A mouth-watering match-up awaits for this one.

After being shipped off to Wolfsburg by Chelsea and then poached back to England for £50m by Guardiola, de Bruyne is showing his boss, his fans and the rest of the league that he is worth every single penny and more.

Some of the passing he has demonstrated so far have been on a different planet to everyone else and he has a vision that is almost unrivalled in world football.

After having a week to acclimatise to England after looking obviously jet-lagged against Bournemouth, Mooy will be looking to put in an improved performance against his old club and prove a point to them that maybe they were wrong to let him go.

Danny Williams vs Fernandinho

Wagner will almost certainly play a three man central midfield to stop us getting over-run and ensure we are as organised as possible on Sunday.

With this in mind, I expect Danny Williams to play and Fernandinho will probably be the man he will be tasked with stopping.

The Brazilian hard-man is another player who has improved dramatically under Guardiola, even chipping in with a couple of goals and assists so far this season.

This will be a colossal battle and I would put money on both players being booked as way of getting some easy money.

Key Stats

  • This will be the first league meeting since a second-tier game in February 2000, when Clyde Wijnhard opened the scoring for Huddersfield before Shaun Goater equalised for the visitors.
  • Manchester City have claimed just one league win away to Huddersfield since 1985 – a 3-1 victory in the second tier in March 1998.
  • The Terriers have won back-to-back home games in the top flight for the first time since 1971.
  • They have kept clean sheets in three of their six home league games this term, conceding six goals – four them coming in one game against Tottenham.
  • No player has had more shots without scoring in the Premier League this season than Huddersfield’s Tom Ince (30, including blocked efforts).
  • Victory would equal City’s club record of 11 consecutive league wins, set between April and September 2015.
  • Their 10-match winning streak is already their longest run within a single season.
  • A win would ensure City become the first team to claim 37 points from their opening 13 Premier League games.

Whilst I don’t expect us to win on Sunday and many expect us to lose comfortably, there is something dangerous about a team with nothing to lose. Against Manchester United, albeit an out of sorts one, Town showed that they can make life extremely difficult for anyone. In suspected wintery conditions, if Town can play with the same intensity that they did against Manchester United… you never know.

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