Match Review: Manchester City v Newcastle United

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-02 at 10.15.27.pngManchester City earned maximum points with a 2-1 victory over a stubborn Newcastle side at the Etihad on Saturday evening.

Raheem Sterling opened the scoring early on with a deft finish, curled past Martin Dubravka in the Newcastle goal.

With their first real attack of the half, Newcastle equalised through DeAndre Yedlin, who latched on the end of a Rondon cross. The American had a tap in at the back post, despite the best efforts of Gabriel Jesus, who was the last man back as Benjamin Mendy failed to get back – much to the anger of captain David Silva.

Despite a poor showing in the first half, Pep Guardiola’s City stepped it up in the second, despite not creating many clear cut opportunities. Kyle Walker scored his first goal for the club with a thunderous strike from distance, which proved to be the winning goal in an interesting encounter in Manchester.

Talking Points

City’s English trio the best of a star studded bunch 

In a game where City didn’t really excel at their blistering best, the performances of John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker were exceptional.

With Benjamin Mendy back in the side, Raheem Sterling has thrice been deployed in a left wing position, allowed to cut inside and roam. At the World Cup, we saw that centrally, he is an exciting player, but he didn’t really have the players around him making movements as he does at City. From the left, his impact on the game is felt more and his goal was a well taken effort, not too dissimilar to his strike at the Emirates on the opening day.

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John Stones told BT Sport after the game that he is trying to work on five attributes:

“Clean sheets, defensively be more solid, become more of a leader, everything that comes with being a defender,” he said.

“Aerial duels, crosses into box. I never stop learning. I have got a lot to improve on in my game. They’re a few I want to improve on this season.

So far this campaign, Stones is showing all of them. I was at the game, so see things you don’t on the TV: off the ball, Stones is more and more commanding every week, encouraging players around him. He also looks extremely calm with the ball at his feet and is ever improving off the ball.

The third Englishman, Kyle Walker, showed again that he is probably the best right-back in world football, with another athletic display on and off the ball, that is not to mention his goal of the month candidate.

De Bruyne’s absence is felt

It says a lot that at half time, one of the trending topics was Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian is rumoured to be doing well in his recovery, but is still the best part of six weeks away from a return to action.

With City’s wide men looking good, there were a few times when you thought “De Bruyne would have done better there”.

Pep Guardiola’s men missed a cutting edge or a drive from midfield to great extent, not just against Newcastle, but against Wolves the week before.

There were a few times where David Silva received the ball on the counter attack, with half the pitch to drive into – Silva is great, but this is De Bruyne’s forte.

Again, the ball broke on the edge of the box and was cleared – City fans collective murmured “who’s there?!”. De Bruyne would have been there, popping up at the right time to unleash a shot.

City got the three points yesterday, so it doesn’t really matter, but the quicker they can get their star man back, the better, as they look a bit lost without him at times.

Rafa’s Newcastle prove they should have enough to stay up 

Newcastle have been on the receiving end of 2-1 defeats to Spurs, Chelsea and now Manchester City. Rafael Benitez will feel extremely hard done by, as his side have been very unlucky on all occasions.

The Magpies didn’t have it in them to take on City and try and win the game, Benitez was realistic about that. Thus, as he did against Chelsea and Spurs, he put 10 men behind the ball and tried to absorb pressure.

For the most part, it worked – City looked frustrated and void of options at times, often having to pass sideways in a ‘U’ shape as forward passes were unavailable due to Newcastle’s tight and rigid structure.

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As a fan of football being played at a fast, fluid level, seeing teams ‘park the bus’ is frustrating, but sympathy has to be given to teams like Newcastle. Without Rafael Benitez, the team would be relegation favourites, as they don’t have a star studded line up by any stretch of the imagination – Rafa is realistic and knows that the defensive style is the best way to win points.

Newcastle enter the international break on the back of three narrow losses against big teams, but there is a lot of positive signs. Many (better) teams will go to The Etihad and lose by a bigger score this season, and that is testament to the solid Benitez outfit, that will have enough to stay up.

Player Ratings

City: Ederson 6; Walker 7, Stones 8 (MOTM), Laporte 7, Mendy 6; Sterling 8, Fernandinho 6, Silva 7, Mahrez 6; Jesus 6.5, Aguero 6.

As has been highlighted, the English trio at City was pleasing for City fans. Another bright spark was Aymeric Laporte, who seems more at home in Pep’s side every week. The partnership of himself and John Stones looks set for the future, with the duo born just one day apart and both with the twilight of their careers well ahead of them.

It was a quiet afternoon for the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Sergio Aguero for City. The former made his first home start, but struggled to impact the game. He often went long periods without seeing the ball, and his replacement Bernardo Silva instantly injected some pace and purpose about City’s play.

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Newcastle: Dubravka 8; Yedlin 7, Clark 6, Lascelles 5, Fernandez 6, Dummett 5; Kenedy 6,  Diame 5, Ki 5, Perez 6, Rondon 6.

The highlight for Newcastle today was the performance of Martin Dubravka, who is proving himself as a crude buy from Sparta Praha. The Czech goalkeeper looks a great shot stopper, but also seems more than capable when he rushes from his goal to close down attackers and made the right decision a number of times in the game at the Etihad.

The midfield duo of Mo Diame and Ki Sung-Yeung struggled at the Etihad. They struggled to get the ball off City, which is nothing to judge them by, as not many midfielders in the world do get the better of City’s midfield. However, neither looked to have a creative spark and apart from their goal, Newcastle hardly threatened Ederson’s goal, highlighting their lack of creativity. Had Shelvey been playing, Newcastle may have created more.

Who Are Ya? Meet Huesca, Barca’s opponents taking La Liga by storm

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Barcelona host minnows Huesca on Sunday, which may not be the most exciting encounter of the weekend, but if you are a fan of little clubs taking on global giants, this one is for you.

Huesca have visited this stadium once in their history, that was in 2014, where Barcelona won 8-1, topping off a 12-1 aggregate win in the Copa del Rey. A lot can change in four years, especially in football – Huesca are no exception to that.

The game at the Nou Camp has a cup tie feel to it. That is credit to Huesca, the team from Aragon who only dreamt of games like this for the rest of their history, which started in 1960.

Sociedad Deportiva Huesca are two games deep into their inaugural season in in the Spanish top flight, and are currently taking the division by storm, registering 4 points from a possible 6.

When promoted, Huesca were ordered to renovate their stadium, Estadio El Alcoraz. It made history as the smallest ground in La Liga history, but have since added an extra 2500 to their ground. And why not? If history is anything to go by, Huesca fans should take their chance whilst they can and go and watch Oscence – the nickname given to people of the town.

Another nickname they use is azulgranas, due to the colours of their shirt, which is the same as the Barcelona Blaugrana. Why? Because Huesca were setup by a group of Barcelona fans, thus decided they would play in the same colours. They become the fourth team in La Liga to wear these colours, with Eibar and Levante being the other two.

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If the part where I described Huesca as minnows was understated or misunderstood, let me reel off some facts ahead of this encounter to drill home that point: you could fit the whole population of the town of Huesca into the Nou Camp, nearly twice; Lionel Messi’s weekly salary is greater than Huesca’s summer transfer budget; the club ran on just €100k per year when president Peton took over.

Speaking of Peton, he is the man behind Huesca’s success story. As the CEO, Jose Antonio Martin Otin (known as Peton), the ex-player revamped how the club was run slowly but surely since he took over a decade ago.

The side were looking down the barrel of relegation to the fourth tier, but they dodged the bullet and won the relegation playoff. Shortly after, they were promoted to the second division. Huesca were relegated not long after but remarkably, achieved two promotions in four years to enter La Liga for the first time ever.

Peton repeatedly says: “If you don’t understand this club, leave.”

Striker Alex Gallar understands the club as well as most, spent the majority of his career in the third and fourth tiers, but has had a Vardy-esque rise to the forefront of Spanish football, and scored a brace on Huesca’s opening day win against Eibar.

With little budget, Huesca have to rely on loan deals. Axel Werner represents a nice loan signing from Atletico Madrid, but the star man is Cucho Hernandez, on loan from Watford. The 19-year-old Colombian forward netted 16 goals last season in the promotion campaign and will be vital to the bid for survival.

Huesca won the hearts of social media with their last minute equaliser against Bilbao last weekend at San Mames – they are a romantic football story. Everyone loves a minnow, so the whole of the world that are not Barca fans will be rooting for the small side from Aragon in the Nou Camp on Sunday.

Should Huesca stay up, they will need a miracle. Sides like Eibar and Girona have showed it is possible, but the side with a 7500 capacity and a population smaller than the capacity of the Nou Camp, will need to show the fearless character they have in their opening games at Eibar and Athletic.

 

 

 

Match Review: Leicester City v Liverpool

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Liverpool enter the international break with maximum points from the first four games after a gritty win at the King Power Stadium.

First half goals from Mané and Firmino set the Reds on the trail to a win that may please Jurgen Klopp more than a high scoring thrashing, as it was this sort of fixture that saw his side drop points in the last couple of seasons.

Alisson was at fault as Rachid Ghezzal pulled one back for the home side. The Brazilian conceded his first goal of his Premier League career as he tried to overplay in his own box – Kelechi Iheanacho stole the ball and squared to his Algerian teammate who finished well.

Leicester threatened for the remaining half an hour, but never put Liverpool under too much pressure. Ultimately, Leicester will see this as a game they deserved at least a point from, but Liverpool will leave the stadium delighted with their early season form heading into the first international break.

Talking Points

Liverpool show they can grind out results 

One of the biggest components of a title winning side is the ability to grind out results. The great Manchester United teams under Ferguson did it year after year, Mourinho’s Chelsea often won narrowly, Pep Guardiola’s City often got late winners to romp home to the title last season.

So far, albeit only four games into the season, Liverpool are showing they have that trait. Last week at home to Brighton, Klopp’s side were far from their best, but won narrowly. Today, Liverpool were poor, especially in the second half, but got the victory and maximum points.

This is far from a criticism of Liverpool. I am sure all Liverpool fans would admit they have been poor so far. But they have maximum points, with four wins in four. That is title winning form.

Leicester missed a few chances they would have felt they could’ve done better with, but The Foxes never really looked like equalising, despite being well worth a point.

It is too early to make rash predictions of who will win the league, or at least to change predictions from pre-season, but Liverpool are showing the one trait that has alluded them in the last decade.

Last season, they would’ve dropped points in one of the last two games, but Klopp’s men surged on and got maximum points at a tricky stadium. Hats off.

Maddison the pick of Puel’s Leicester 

“In a midfield full of international talent, he [Maddison] ran the game” – Jamie Redknapp on Sky Sports was full of praise for Leicester’s 21-year-old midfielder James Maddison after a brilliant performance today.

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Gareth Southgate announced his England squad this Thursday for the UEFA Nations League fixtures against Spain and Switzerland. Rumours around the country spread that England’s heroic gaffer may have gave a call up to impressive youngsters such as James Maddison or Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund.

Southgate didn’t do this, but James Maddison surely can’t be far off the England squad.

Making his name at Norwich City, the exciting attacking midfielder earned plaudits for his goalscoring haul in the Championship last season, as he was the pick of a poor Canaries bunch.

Since his move to the East Midlands, Maddison has been extremely pleasing. He put in a good performance at Old Trafford in the season opener and was the star of the show for the home side today.

He has the knack all good midfielders have, of ghosting into positions and finding space in between the midfield and defence. There were a couple of times he opted to pass rather than shoot and maybe with a bit of confidence, Maddison would have scored today.

Maddison, who came through the ranks at Coventry, was the main attacking threat for Claude Puel’s side today – the future looks bright for Leicester.

Van Dijk is the best defender in the league (and future Liverpool captain) 

An indicator of a good signing is when no one mentions the price six months down the line. When Liverpool won the long, dramatic race for Virgil Van Dijk in January, many questioned whether £75m was too much for the then Southampton defender.

A few weeks into the new season, that price does not get mentioned.

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Already, Virgil Van Dijk is settling in at Liverpool and proving himself to be one of the best defenders in the world, and potentially the best in the league.

For sure, the Dutch international is the most well rounded of potential candidates: Vertonghen, Laporte, Azpilicueta, etc.

He is adequate on the ball and exceptional off it. When a cross comes into the box, Van Dijk is always the favourite to win the ball, which he did time and time again when Leicester put his side under extreme pressure towards the end.

With the young trio of Gomez, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson either side of him, Van Dijk is the leader and seems a shoe in for a future Liverpool captain, as he enters his peak years.

Player Ratings

Leicester: Schmeichel 6; Pereira 6, Maguire 7, Morgan 6, Chilwell 7; Mendy 8, Ndidi 6; Ghezzal 6, Maddison 8 (MOTM), Albrighton 6; Gray 6.

As has been mentioned, James Maddison was the pick of the bunch for Leicester. Another promising performance was that of Nampalys Mendy. The young Frenchman struggled for form in his first year at Leicester, so was loaned to OGC Nice last season. Puel decided Mendy will play a key part of his side this year, and he has looked more than capable of doing so in the early weeks of the season, as he looks assured in the Leicester midfield.

The Foxes certainly missed Jamie Vardy today, as Demarai Gray struggled in an unfamiliar central role. Kelechi Iheanacho came off the bench and linked the play perhaps better than Vardy does, as he dropped deep rather than looking to get in behind. Puel has a couple of handy options in the striker role, and Iheanacho’s performance off the bench will please him.

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Liverpool: Alisson 4; Alexander-Arnold 5, Van Dijk 7, Gomez 7, Robertson 8; Milner 6, Wijnaldum 6, Henderson 6; Salah 6, Firmino 7, Mané 7.5.

It wasn’t a great afternoon for Liverpool by any means. Alisson Becker’s mistake could have costed Liverpool, whilst Trent Alexander-Arnold looked nervous on a few occasions too.

Andy Robertson, however, is developing into one of the best full backs in the division and proving he wasn’t just going through a purple patch of form in Liverpool’s Champions League run. The Scotsman looks solid at the back and offers a good outlet in attack. Robertson will be a key component of Liverpool’s team, should they go all the way this year.

Match Review: Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 22.56.37Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham heaped more misery on Manchester United and Jose Mourinho by inflicting a second successive defeat on the home side, with a 3-0 victory thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Lucas Moura.

Mourinho’s side were on the receiving end of an embarrassing defeat at Brighton last weekend and although the performance against Spurs was much improved, United saw no dividends, as a clinical Spurs side exposed the weaknesses of the hosts.

In the first half, it was United on top. Romelu Lukaku missed a clear cut chance when Danny Rose sold Lloris short with a backpass and that was one of many chances United had in a half that they should have took the lead. Despite this, Spurs had a penalty turned down for an obvious foul by Phil Jones.

Spurs scored two goals in quick succession via a Harry Kane header and Lucas Moura, before the latter netted again with a brilliant goal on the counter attack.

Talking Points

Spurs are the real deal 

It’s that time of the year again. We are not even a month into the season and fans are starting to re-think their pre-season predictions that Spurs won’t have enough to challenge for the title. Just like last season and the season before that, those fans are starting to think: “Wait a minute, Spurs are the real deal!”

By now, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. It would seem that reports of the demise of a good old title race are greatly exaggerated. Whilst Man City may be too good for the opposition, Spurs have now joined Chelsea and Liverpool (and Watford) in maintaining their 100 percent start to the season.

Pre match, Harry Kane said to be considered as real title contenders, Spurs must win at places like Old Trafford. The World Cup golden boot winner has his wish.

A lot of the talk going into the season for Spurs was whether they had enough goals beyond talisman Kane, or whether there was a potent threat on the counter charge, as well as criticising Spurs’ transfer window, which saw zero new faces.

Whilst not signing a player may still come back to bite them, Lucas Moura is looking like a new signing.

Joining in January from PSG, the Brazilian had a tough start to life in North London, but in the first weeks of the new season, he is looking worth the money. He was the man of the match tonight and gave Spurs a dimension that we have not seen before. He was good in possession, made clever runs off Harry Kane in the central role but more importantly he scored two goals.

If Lucas and Spurs can carry on this form, Spurs will be right up there in May. They now have a settled squad with young but experienced players that are entering the better part of their career. Lucas will take some of the burden off Harry Kane, which will allow Pochettino’s men to thrive.

Alderweireld shows United exactly what they are crying out for 

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As has been highlighted previously, United’s issues run deeper than on the pitch. Part of that argument was the inadequacy in past transfer windows. One main target for United this summer was Spurs’ Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld, who Woodward refused to pay big money for, citing his age.

The Spurs defender, who started consecutive league games for the first time since November, was a wall at the back for Spurs.

The impact of Lucas feeling like a new signing has been noted, but keeping Alderweireld at the club is a deal is as important to Spurs as any reinforcement would have been.

As he was against Fulham last week, Alderweireld was dominant at the heart of the Spurs defence, snuffing out United attacks and using the ball brilliantly. His reading of the game was excellent and after a nervy start for the away side, Alderweireld was the best player on the pitch, alongside Lucas Moura.

It is no surprise Jose Mourinho wanted a defender so much, as he had to sit through another painful defensive performance. Last weekend, Eric Bailly put in a laughable performance at the AMEX. This week, it was both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who both had calamitous evenings, not to mention Ander Herrera, who started as an auxiliary centre-half ahead of Victor Lindelof who came on and looked no better.

Alderweireld and Vertonghen both look sharp and the defensive duo that has been blighted by injuries for the best part of 18 months look to be back to their best. As for United, defensive issues could cost them a lot of points this season.

Time to go, Jose? 

After three games, it would be rash to call for any managers head. It would be an overreaction of epic proportions to say Jose and United are completely out of the running this season.

But… if any inferences are to be made, they are to be extremely negative ones.

“Goals are an incredible vitamin and goals conceded are an overdose of fatigue”

The words of Mourinho after the whistle were, as ever, confusing yet interesting. He obviously believes his side deserved much more than the scoreline suggests. Evidently, Mourinho feels sorry for himself and his ‘United’ dressing room that he swore by and emphasised in the post match interview with Sky Sports’ Geoff Shreeves.

It was better than the display on the south coast last Sunday, but a 3-0 loss at Old Trafford is unacceptable.

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Next up for Mourinho’s men is Burnley, Watford and Wolves. Anything less than nine points will see even more questions asked of United, in fixtures they should win but on the same token, games that are far from easy.

Should United not turn this dreadful start round, the vultures will start to circle faster and the Portuguese coach could be heading for an early door in his third season in Manchester.

Player Ratings

United: De Gea 4; Herrera 4; Smalling 2, Jones 2; Valencia 6, Matic 5, Fred 6, Shaw 7; Lingard 7.5, Pogba 3; Lukaku 5.

The back three were terrible from start to finish. Jones could have and was lucky not to give away a penalty in the first half for a clumsy challenge, lost his man on Kane’s corner and was lucky that he wasn’t punished from other set pieces. Smalling was at fault for at least one of Lucas’ strikes, and Herrera looked out of place in the back three, despite looking good on the ball.

If any positives are to be drawn on an individual level it is the performance of Jesse Lingard, who was United’s best player, especially in the first half. Off the back of a good World Cup, Lingard was a constant source of energy, starting attacks and linking play well. A couple of times he played the simple ball rather than shooting or passing forward, which he must improve.

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Spurs: Lloris 7.5; Trippier 7, Alderweireld 9, Vertonghen 7, Rose 6; Dier 7, Dembele 6; Eriksen 8, Alli 6; Kane 8, Lucas Moura 9 (MOTM).

Lucas Moura has put his name forward for August’s player of the month in the Premier League with another great performance. The two goals were well taken, especially his second, which came from a run down the middle through the defence. Lucas adds a new dimension to Spurs’ attack, which must be pleasing for Pochettino.

Harry Kane, who isn’t fully fit, looks to be adding more to his game each week. Today brought a goal and assist for Spurs’ main man, as he dropped deep more often to support the buildup, something Pochettino has clearly been working on. After the international break, Kane will be fully fit, which is surely a scary thought for defenders.

Match Review: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City

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Wolverhampton Wanderers gained a hard fought point at home to champions Manchester City in the early Saturday kick off with a 1-1 draw.

Willy Boly scored the opening goal in the game early in the second half by directing Joao Moutinho’s cross beyond Ederson, despite replays showed he used his hand.

The opening goal seemed to give City a kick, who performed better since going behind. Not long after Wolves scored, City pulled one back through a Aymeric Laporte header, his first goal for the club.

Despite City not being at their best and Wolves being brilliant, Pep Guardiola’s side will be disheartened not to come away with three points, after hitting the woodwork three times in the match and forcing Patricio into some top saves.

Talking Points

The implementation of Video Assistant Referee

Last night, Bayern Munich were denied a goal via VAR in the Bundesliga curtain raiser. In Serie A last season, we saw VAR work effectively. La Liga and Ligue Un also have implemented VAR for the upcoming season.

Notice a pattern? Me too. Out of the so called ‘top five leagues’, the self-proclaimed ‘best league in the world’ does not have VAR. In fact, a two-thirds majority of Premier League clubs voted against VAR for the 18/19 season.

The truth of the matter is that the Premier League is outdated and quite frankly needs to move with the times.

Today, with VAR, Wolves’ opener would not have stood and Manchester City may have won a penalty, making the game very different.

This is not the first time referees have been questioned this season and it certainly will not be the last.

Yes, the technology has its faults. There is no mathematical formula on how to decide what is or is not a penalty. As we saw in the World Cup, the argument “well it takes the drama away” is false. If anything, it added to the drama.

In order to have fair games, it is a necessity and if the Premier League is to move with the times, it must implement VAR from next season.

Benjamin Mendy’s suspect defending

Last week, many around the country hailed Benjamin Mendy as the best left back in the world. Going forward, they are not wrong – his overlapping runs and crosses are devastating and this was on full show against Huddersfield.

Part of the reason for this was the 3-5-2 shape that City employed in that fixture. Laporte’s cover on the left of a three man defence allowed Mendy to play as an auxiliary winger.

In a four, that is not the case.

Whilst Mendy looks like he will create a goal every time he attacks, it looks like he will concede one every time a winger runs at him.

Despite making a couple of vital tackles, interceptions and clearances today, the World Cup winner looked slightly suspect when Costa and later Traore ran at him.

This could leave Pep with a dilemma, especially in away games where his defenders will be put under pressure at any given opportunity.

Fabian Delph is a consistent, quiet, conservative option, should Pep have these thoughts.

Guardiola will have to weigh up his options, just as he does with other parts of his meticulous structure. When criticized for his ‘playing out from the back’ in his early days in England, the coach inspired by Cruyff admitted that it may cost them a few goals per season, but in the grand scheme of things, it will lead to them scoring more goals overall, so in the balance of proportions it will work well.

This is the same argument he may have with Mendy and Delph. Whilst Mendy may cost City a goal or two along the way, he will create more.

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Nuno Espirito Santo’s system is extremely complimentary

Ten years ago, we started to see a shift away from the standard 4-4-2 to a more compact 4-2-3-1. Most teams adopted some sort of 4-2-3-1, with many things becoming predictable.

With more foreign managers moving to the Premier League, we have seen many new formations, including 3-4-3 or 3-5-2, made popular in this league by Antonio Conte’s Chelsea.

Wolves play a 3-4-3 system: a solid back three of capable central defenders, two wingbacks and defensively minded yet comfortable on the ball midfielders, with a traditional front three, who often cut inside and act as wide forwards.

This system seems to bring the best out of every player on the pitch for Wolves, whilst striking the perfect balance between defensive solidarity and attacking prowess, making it a fluid shape.

Player Ratings

Wolves: Patricio 8; Bennett 6, Coady 7, Boly 9 (MOTM); Doherty 6, Neves 8, Moutinho 6, Jonny 7; Jota 7, Jimenez 6, Costa 7.

Rui Patricio’s first half save from the Sterling dipping effort is quite literally a save that wins you points – the sort you look back on at the end of the season. Despite some suspect distribution, Wolves’ #11 goalkeeper looked assured and made some top saves to deny the likes of Jesus and Aguero.

Willy Boly put in one of the best defensive performances you may see all season. He was commanding in the air, timed his tackles to perfection and used his tactical knowledge to cleverly intercept balls as Aguero looked sharp in the first half. The French defender scored the important first goal for the home side, despite using his hand.

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City: Ederson 6; Walker 5, Kompany 4.5, Laporte 8, Mendy 6; Fernandinho 7, Gundogan 5, D. Silva 7; Sterling 6, Aguero 7, B. Silva 5.

Aymeric Laporte is looking a great signing for City. Every attack started via the Basque defender and he looked solid in the duels as well. His first goal for City may be an important one, as City could’ve easily lost this game against a stubborn Wolves defence.

The same cannot be said of his partner Vincent Kompany, who looked nervous for a man of his experience. The early yellow card may not have helped, as the Belgian pulled out of a few tackles that saw Wolves players skip past him.

Match Preview: Wolves v Manchester City

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Wolverhampton Wanderers host the champions Manchester City in the early kick off on Saturday in what proves to be a blockbuster affair at Molyneux.

For the home side, it has been a start that is below the par many outsiders expected of Wolves, but is very early days and some players have shone already.

Manchester City head into the game in the form they finished last season, on the back of dismantling Huddersfield Town at the Etihad last Sunday.

I take a look at both sides, as well as some of the key factors that may impact the way this affair will swing on Saturday.

When? Saturday 12:30pm

Where? Molineux

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Last League Meeting: Wolves 0-2 Man City (April 2012)

Odds: H 12/1; A 2/7; D 6/1.

Team News

Club record signing Adama Traore impressed off the bench last weekend and is expected to make his first start, which will frighten the young City defence.

Wing back Matt Doherty is fit despite being forced off with an injury in the loss to Leicester.

For City, Claudio Bravo is set to miss the best part of the season with an Achilles tendon injury suffered in training this week. In response, City have recalled teenage goalkeeper Arojarnet Muric from a loan spell at unofficial sister club NAC Breda.

David Silva is set for his first 90 minutes of the season after completing an hour in an impressive performance against Huddersfield last weekend.

Wolves Predicted XI: Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Moutinho, Neves, Jonny; Traore, Jimenez, Jota.

City Predicted XI: Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Mendy; Fernandinho, Gundogan, D. Silva; B.Silva, Aguero, Sterling.

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Molineux awaits in expectance

It has been a far from easy start to life back in the Premier League for Wolves, but their attractive brand of football has caught the eye of many neutrals.

Nuno Espirito Santo will stick to his principles, and not be one to change his ways and sit back just because one of the big boys are in town.

He said this week: “We do not know how to play another way. We will not change because we want to build something”.

If that is so, this could be an exciting tie. With City playing their possession based game high in the Wolves half, they may be susceptible to the counter attack, especially if Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker play as high up as they have done so far this season.

With this being the first big team to visit Molineux since their promotion, the crowd will be up and the roar when they enter the City half will be deafening.

Ruben Neves is a player that has been courted by Pep Guardiola and City as a potential replacement for the ageing Fernandinho. The Portuguese midfielder has enjoyed a positive start to life in the Premier League after an eye catching season in the Championship. Will he use this game as an audition to Pep Guardiola and managers of other clubs?

What cards will Guardiola play from his stacked deck?

In the 6-1 victory over Huddersfield, Guardiola’s bench included the likes of Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sané and Phil Foden – and that is not to mention the fact their star man, Kevin De Bruyne, is sidelined for a few months with a knee injury.

To say City have an embarrassment of riches is an understatement, but this creates a selection headache for Pep Guardiola. The Catalan coach, as we have seen in the Amazon Prime ‘All or Nothing’ documentary, will be sat in a room on his laptop plotting how he can beat Wolves.

But, what weapon does he choose to use? Does he have to be wary of the counter attack? Does he risk starting the attacking Mendy and risk leaving the space in behind? Will he opt for the tricky, finesse players in Mahrez and Bernardo, or opt for pace and power in Sterling and Sané? Does he opt for a 3 or 4 at the back?

These are all questions that will be mulling around Pep Guardiola’s head. Whether he opts for the conservative approach, or whether he unleashes his stars, is unknown, making it almost impossible to predict his lineups.

Predictions 

I think this will be City’s toughest game of the season, thus far.

Arsenal invited City on to them, Huddersfield just weren’t at the races, whilst Wolves may go toe to toe with City and try and win the tie, just like they nearly did at the Etihad in the Carabao Cup last season.

Despite this, City should have enough to win, but I think it will be tight. I’ve gone for a City win, with Wolves taking the lead in the first half. Aguero and David Silva to score.

Wolves 1-2 City.