Manchester City will be aiming to get back to winning ways when they welcome Southampton to the Etihad Stadium this weekend (1.30pm Sunday, Sky Sports 1).
Pep Guardiola’s men were held to a draw at the same venue last weekend, with Kevin De Bruyne (pictured) and Sergio Aguero both failing to convert from the penalty spot as Ronald Koeman’s Everton escaped with a point.
Man City were superb in open play, with their fluid combinations and quick circulation of the ball allowing them to cut through the visitors at will, although Guardiola will have been a little disappointed that his charges were unable to create more clear-cut scoring opportunities. City’s lead at the summit of the standings has been cut in the last few weeks, but it is understandable that they remain the bookmakers’ favourites to finish on top of the pile this term.
Southampton have found their feet under new boss Claude Puel of late, winning five and drawing two of their last seven outings in all competitions. The departure of former manager Ronald Koeman to Everton, as well as the loss of key players such as Victor Wanyama to Tottenham Hotspur and Graziano Pelle to Shandong Luneng, inevitably led to a period of readjustment for Saints. They now seem to have come out of the other side of that slightly turbulent spell at the beginning of the campaign. Southampton will be targeting another top-half finish this term, and their performances in recent weeks have demonstrated that that is a realistic enough objective.
Guardiola will be unable to call upon the services of right-back Bacary Sagna (hamstring) and central midfielder Fabian Delph (muscular) as his side target their seventh victory of the Premier League campaign. The former Barcelona head coach – his current side lost 4-0 to his former employers in the Champions League on Wednesday night – employed an unconventional 3-2-2-3 formation against Everton but could revert to a four-man backline for the visit of Southampton, with Sergio Aguero set to start up top after beginning the draw with Everton on the substitutes’ bench.
Club captain Vincent Kompany has regained full fitness after his most recent injury lay-off but will probably not be involved from the start this weekend, with Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones Guardiola’s two preferred central defenders.
Southampton will have to make do without Matt Targett (hamstring), Cedric Soares (foot), Ryan Bertrand (hamstring) and Joel Pied (knee) for their trip to the northwest. Puel will stick with the 4-4-2 formation that has been such a success since its introduction, with Southampton’s midfield now arranged in the shape of a diamond – Oriol Romeu at the base, Dusan Tadic at the tip and Jordy Clasie and Steven Davis used as shuttlers on either side. Sam McQueen could start on the left-hand side of the back four in the absence of Targett and Bertrand, while in-form centre-forward Charlie Austin – who has found the back of the net four times in his last four Premier League appearances – will be partnered by Nathan Redmond at the top of the pitch.
This preview expects Man City to come out on top by a narrow margin this weekend. Guardiola’s charges have been excellent at times this year, but Southampton have improved in recent weeks and could make life difficult for their illustrious opponents at the Eithad Sadium. City will probably have a little too much quality for Saints, though, so a 2-1 home win is this preview’s favoured result.