WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) loves a Manchester City preview/rant. Here he previews their clash with Southampton, two teams that lost on the road in Europe in midweek. Who gets back to winning ways?
Manchester City v Southampton | Sunday 13:30 | Sky Sports 1
It’s really hard to summarise Man City’s trip to the Camp Nou.
Pep set the team up without a recognised striker in order to nullify Barcelona’s ball possession. It worked too. Had they not had a man sent off they would probably have had more possession than the Catalans.
However, a few key moments went the wrong way for Guardiola’s side. A slip by Fernandinho was punished by Lionel Messi and then Ilkay Gundogan and John Stones missed guilt-edged chances later in the first half.
I’m adamant that, whilst they might not have created as much with Sergio Aguero on the pitch, I do think they would have gone in at the break level, such is Kun’s prolificacy in the box.
In the second-half Claudio Bravo got what had been coming to him over the last few weeks with another mistake and a downright idiotic handball 10 yards outside his box. Barcelona then did what you’d expect, ran the game and put three more goals past the sorry Citizens.
It means that City are now four games without a win and I expect at least some of the players will be questioning Guardiola’s tactics and whether or not they can ever master that style of play.
The key for me is that Pep has not improved the defence.
John Stones was a good acquisition but at left and right back they are struggling. Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta are past their best, Gael Clichy has never reached his potential and Alexsandr Kolarov is not good enough at his primary responsibility; defending.
I’ve seen a degree of improvement in Nicolas Otamendi but they still miss Vincent Kompany. After the game Pep insisted that both he and Aguero still have a future at the club. Don’t get me started on the goalkeeping position.
All told there’s a lot of question marks around them defensively and it explains why they have now conceded 12 in their last 6 games, and not a single clean sheet.
Saints are in form under Claude Puel. Last week’s 3-1 win over Burnley saw them fire in a total of 34 attempts at goal, with 14 on target. They are incredibly good at bridging the gap between midfield and striker.
Charlie Austin has become the starting forward for them in the Premier League. The local boy has seven goals in his last six starts in all competitions. He scored a brace against Burnley but in reality it could have been four if he had not found Tom Heaton in great form.
Southampton lost 1-0 in Milan in midweek. Seven years ago they were languishing at the bottom of League One whilst Inter were top of the Serie A. A lot has happened in the meantime and Saints were actually disappointed to leave with nothing.
They had more possession created a fair few more chances but unfortunately couldn’t capitalise even with Marcelo Brozovic’s sending off. It was their first defeat in eight games and Antonio Candreva’s goal was just the second that they’ve conceded in eight outings.
All in all, Southampton are in great form, dominating games and will go to Manchester with their heads held high and their eyes on a result. Unfortunately for them though, they will face the brunt of Guardiola’s backlash on the less than satisfactory Citizens performances.
Saints have lost all four visits to the Etihad since they returned to the top flight in 2012. I can see them playing well and scoring but City are still a class above and showed signs against Barcelona that wins are just around the corner. However, 1/2 about a home win is pretty bland so I’ll look elsewhere.
Three of Southampton’s last four visits to Etihad stadium have seen them score but lose the game. They’ve conceded a total of 12 goals in those four visits, scoring four. It immediately pushes my attention towards Man City to win and both teams to score, available at 21/10 with Bet365.
The goals that Saints have scored at Etihad have mostly come from their strikers (Rickie Lambert twice and Shane Long once in those four games mentioned).
I’ve tipped Austin to score in both of my last two previews involving Southampton and I’m not about to stop now when the value is still incredibly good. The ever-reliable number 10 is 11/4 to notch anytime (Coral), with the form that he is in I can’t say no.