United vs City: Are the Manchester clubs set for failure this season?

It’s no secret both Manchester Untied and Manchester City are not living up to the high expectations set by the fans, pundits and club in general so far this season. Both sides are currently outside the top four more than halfway through the domestic campaign, which is no where near where they expect to be, so are the two set for failure this season? Lewis Addley explores… 

Ten games into the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City things were looking like a foregone conclusion for the season ahead. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss looked to have bought his style of play to England with success, winning ten games on the bounce, but fast-forward to January and City are struggling in 5th place.

Things are not much different domestically for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United either. The Red Devils remain outside the top four and look a long way behind league-leading Chelsea.

Both clubs have reached the knockout stage in Europe, City in the Champions League and United in the Europa League, which surely will be the focus of their seasons respectively come the return of the competitions in a few weeks. United are on the brink of reaching the final of the League Cup, but that alone will not be enough to reduce the pressure on Mourinho, with more always expected of the Manchester giants.

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So are both of these clubs set for failure?

In a word, no. There are plenty of games for the league table to continue to change. But the competition for the top four is so intense that it is difficult, with current form in mind, to think both sides will make the cut. United had just began to pick up form but their consecutive draws suggest they’re still one step away from troubling the sides above them on a consistent basis.

City on the other hand seem to have no league form whatsoever, they’re fast becoming a side who look beatable from the off and Pep is going to have to change something. They’ve gone from having a powerful, tight backline to a nervy outfit who look like they will concede with every shot, something Claudio Bravo is picking up an unwanted affiliation for, having conceded the last six efforts on goal he has faced.

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As previously mentioned United are on track to reach the League Cup final but given the current nature of expectancy, that trophy alone is not enough for a title-chasing side. Both Manchester clubs are still challenging in the FA Cup, a tournament they are going to need to reach the latter stages in at least, such as the regard winning it is held in.

European action offers contrasting situations, City face PSG in the Champions League, while United drew Saint-Étienne in the Europa League. City’s performance last year was their best effort to date in the competition and given the strength of the sides they can pull in the latter rounds if they are to progress, winning it would be some feat, although not impossible given the quality of players available to Guardiola. 

United’s progression in the Europa League wouldn’t be something Mourinho is bothered by, if you’re to believe his stance on the competition, however winning it would guarantee them a place in the Champions League next season regardless of their league finish. With that in mind United have to take it seriously, no doubt they will.

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There is no doubt both Manchester clubs have the ability to win some silverware this season between them, but domestically it isn’t looking overly promising. With track-record in mind, many have been surprised with the struggles the two have endured in their first season. In the modern game transitional periods are becoming less and less acceptable, especially considering the amount of money that’s being spent on transfers. Perhaps not the first season of the Mourinho and Guardiola era their fans would have had high hopes for?

Is it too early for the word failure to be thrown around or have Mourinho and Guardiola not lived up to expectation so far? 

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Premier League Preview and Prediction: Everton vs Manchester City

Competition: Premier League – Everton vs. Manchester City

Venue: Goodison Park – Sunday, January 15 – 13:30 GMT (08:30 ET) 

Match Odds: Everton 16/5 – Draw 14/5 – Man City 4/5

Match Preview

Everton play host to Manchester City on Sunday with The Toffees looking to extend their Premier League unbeaten run to four games.

This is going to be a test for Ronald Koeman’s men, they face a Manchester City side who will be desperate for a win, but they will know they have the ability to upset anyone at Goodison.

Everton are on a three-game unbeaten Premier League run. That recent run of form looks to have them back on track in the league after a difficult spell. They did however exit the FA Cup last weekend in a disappointing home loss, so a response is needed.

This is Everton’s second league home game in a row, they demolished Southampton 3-0 last time out and they have a great chance of a positive result if they put in an impressive display like that again.

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Manchester City have won three of their last five away games. Their last league game was a 2-1 home win against Burnley, an unconvincing performance intensified the pressure on Pep Guardiola.

While Pep is not one to panic, he is in new territory in his managerial career and needs to find a way to silence his doubters. A win here at a ground renowned for being difficult for the top sides to take points from would be a step in the right direction.

City have won five of their last six games in all competitions, including progressing in the FA Cup with a ruthless 5-0 win away against West Ham. The squad should be fresh as their last game will have been nine days previous by kick off on Sunday.

Guardiola’s side have work to do to close the gap at the top of the league. A loss here could potentially see them drop out of the top four and then the alarm bells would certainly be ringing amongst the fans. They need a big performance.

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Team News

Everton’s squad is littered with injuries, they could be without as many as eight players for this tie. Yannick Bolasie, Dominic Clavert-Lewin and Muhamed Besic are all out, while Maarten Stekelenburg, James McCarthy, Bryan Oviedo and Matthew Pennington are all doubts. Idrissa Gueye is on international duty at the African Cup of Nations.

Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan remain long-term absentees for Manchester City, while Leroy Sane is a doubt. Fernandinho is also unavailable for selection as he remains suspended.

Key Points

Everton’s last five: W/L/W/D/W

Manchester City’s last five: W/W//W/L/W

Key Stat: Everton are unbeaten in 12 of their last 13 Premier League games at Goodison Park.

Key Player: Sergio Aguero – The Argentine made the difference in City’s last Premier League game. A lot is going to be expected from him over the second half of the season given his side trail top spot by seven points. He can remind everyone that City are well in the title race by contributing to an impressive away victory here.

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Score Prediction

Everton 2-2 Manchester City – An action packed draw. Everton have caused plenty of the big sides trouble at Goodison down the years and City could fall victim to that fate once again here. City’s defensive issues have been well documented, it would be a surprise if they keep a clean sheet this weekend, given Everton’s free-flowing attacking play.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester City vs Arsenal

Competition: Premier League – Manchester City vs. Arsenal

Venue: Etihad Stadium – Sunday, December 18  – 16:00 GMT (11:00 ET) 

Match Odds: Man City 11/10 – Draw 13/5 – Arsenal 23/10

Match Preview

Manchester City welcome Arsenal to the Etihad on Sunday afternoon in what is a huge Premier League clash between both sides as they look to go into Christmas in high spirits.

City have been far from the side they looked when they won ten-straight games to start the season. They did beat Watford on Wednesday night but had lost back-to-back league games prior to that.

Pep Guardiola is facing the toughest test of his managerial career and will be looking to get past a fellow title rival in Arsenal to alleviate some pressure in the club’s final game before Christmas.

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City will once again be without Sergio Aguero though, and that could cause them problems. They will need Kelechi Iheanacho to lead the line against a Gunners defence that looked sloppy in Tuesday’s defeat at Everton.

Arsenal arrive at the Etihad knowing a win would move them back to within six points of league leaders Chelsea but also know that a defeat would see them fall behind City into fourth place.

This is a huge game for Arsene Wenger. He watched his side throw away three points at Goodison Park in the week and will need his players to remain focused on the tough task at hand if they are to keep their good recent record against City intact.

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Arsenal are unbeaten in six games against Manchester City, with their last defeat coming three years ago, but Wenger has only managed to beat Guardiola in two of their previous eight clashes.

Team News

Manchester City remain without suspended duo Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho here, while Vincent Kompany has been joined by Ilkay Gundogan on the sidelines. Fabian Delph is not yet fit enough to be involved but John Stones should return after being rested during the midweek win over Watford.

Arsenal still have a long injury list to deal with. Chuba Akpom, Santi Cazorla, Mathieu Debuchy, Yaya Sanogo, Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi are all still sidelined, as is Danny Welbeck although the striker has returned to training. Aaron Ramsey is still a doubt.

Key Points

Man City’s last five: W/W/L/L/W

Arsenal’s last five: D/W/W/W/L

Key Stat: There have been 24 goals in the last six games between these two sides – an average of four per game.

Key Player: Alexis Sanchez – The Arsenal striker has been in excellent form this season, scoring 12 league goals. He has now contributed to 27 goals in his last 27 Premier League games and will hope to be the difference-maker on Sunday.

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Score Prediction

Man City 2-2 Arsenal – Goals are expected on Sunday as both sides have shown frailties at the back in recent weeks. City know they must avoid defeat here to keep their title hopes intact but Arsenal will be looking to avoid back-to-back league defeats for the first time in two seasons, so a score draw looks likely in what should be an entertaining game.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Leicester City vs Manchester City

Competition: Premier League – Leicester City FC vs. Manchester City

Venue: King Power Stadium – Saturday, December 10 – 17:30 GMT (12:30 ET)

Match Odds: Leicester 18/5 – Draw 3/1 – Man City 7/10

Match Preview

Leicester welcome Manchester City to the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening in a tie contested by two sides who will feel they’re under performing this season.

The Foxes are struggling to live up to the dizzy heights of last season and if they’re not careful they’ll find themselves in a relegation scrap.

Claudio Ranieri’s side are just two points above the bottom three and are in a dismal run of form. They need to get a string of positive results together and push their way up the Premier League table.

Leicester’s smash and grab style of football that won them the league last season isn’t having the same impact as it did, but a win here would make a huge difference to the mood around the King Power.

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Manchester City have been on track to challenge for the title from the start of the season but they come into this one having lost both the game and their discipline against Chelsea last weekend.

Pep Guardiola is under a little pressure and things are not going his way. City are now sitting fourth, four points off top spot. While this is not the time to panic, the City players are going to need to step up and strike fear back into their opponents.

City’s season is in good shape, they are well in the title race and, like Leicester, have qualified for the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

However, a loss here would open the possibility of City dropping out of the top four if other results go against them. In what appears to be the most competitive Premier League season ever, there is no hiding place for below-par performances.

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Team News

Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel remains out. Danny Drinkwater will complete his three-game ban on the sideline for this one, other than those two, Ranieri has a clean bill of health for his side.

Manchester City will be without their goal machine Sergio Aguero and midfielder Fernandinho following their red cards last weekend. Guardiola’s selection issues are from back to front as he will also be without Nicolas Otamendi, who received his 5th yellow of the season last weekend, so now faces a one match suspension. Raheem Sterling’s return can’t come soon enough for City, he is expected to still be sidelined for this tie, while Vincent Kompany is out and Fabian Delph is a doubt.

Key Points

Leicester’s last five: D/L/L/D/L

Manchester City’s last five: W/D/W/W/L

Key Stat: Home comforts – Although Leicester are going through a rough patch, their home form is something they have been able to fall back on. They’re lost just once in their last 22 at the King Power.

Key Player: Kevin De Bruyne – The Belgian midfielder will be forgiven for feeling sorry for himself after he wasted a huge chance to put City out of sight in their loss last weekend. He’s not the sort to be denied and will be looking to make amends this time around. KDB will be sniffing in and around the penalty area for a goal.

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Score Prediction

Leicester City 1-3 Manchester City – Manchester City need a result following their ill-tempered defeat last weekend. Leicester’s struggles will continue here and City are one of the last sides they will want to be facing while they’re going through this difficult run of form.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester City vs Southampton

Competition: Premier League – Manchester City FC vs. Southampton FC

Venue: Etihad Stadium – Sunday, October 23 – 13:30 BST (08:30 ET)

Match Odds: Man City 1/2 – Draw 100/30 – Southampton 5/1

Match Preview

Manchester City welcome Southampton to the Etihad on Sunday afternoon, with both sides desperate for a win after disappointing results in Europe during the week.

Pep Guardiola watched his City team get thumped 4-0 at Barcelona on Wednesday, with Claudio Bravo’s sending off doing little to help his team’s chances at the Nou Camp.

That defeat means City have failed to win any of their last four games in all competitions. They missed two penalties in last week’s home draw with Everton and need to turn their fortunes around to avoid falling off the top of the table.

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The visit of Southampton presents a tough test for City but they have a squad strong enough to beat anyone on their day, and so an emphatic response is needed after the result in Barca.

The Saints lost 1-0 at Inter Milan in the Europa League on Thursday but do come into this game in very strong domestic form, having won three of their last four in the Premier League.

Claude Puel is starting to get his ideas across to the players and they have managed to only concede one goal in their last four league outings.

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After losing their first two away games of the season, Southampton have now kept back-to-back clean sheets on the road but are facing a tough task in trying to shutout a City attack that has scored the joint-most goals in the top flight after eight games.

Southampton won the most recent meeting between these sides 4-2 back in May, with Kelechi Iheanacho’s brace outdone by Sadio Mane’s hat-trick for the Saints.

More goals could be on the cards here, with both sides looking for points in what should be an entertaining contest.

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Team News

Pep Guardiola may be without both of his right-backs for the visit of Southampton on Sunday. Bacary Sagna is definitely out, while Zabaleta is a doubt. If they are both absent, he could change to a three-man defensive setup, as he did in last week’s draw with Everton. Yaya Toure is still suspended by the club and won’t feature, while Fabian Delph is not yet fit enough to start.

Southampton are looking a little light in attack ahead of Sunday’s game after Shane Long picked up an injury in the 1-0 loss at Inter Milan on Thursday. Nathan Redmond is a doubt, along with Ryan Bertrand and Matt Targett, while Cedric Soares, Jeremy Pied and Florin Gardos are all definitely sidelined. Exciting winger Sofiane Boufal is expected to make his full debut.

Key Points

Manchester City’s last five: W/W/W/L/D

Southampton’s last five: L/W/W/D/W

Key Stat: Since the turn of the year, Southampton (51) have collected two more points than Manchester City have in the Premier League (49).

Key Player: Sergio Aguero – It’s no secret that when Aguero is on form, Manchester City are far more lethal side. The Argentine striker started Wednesday’s game at Barcelona on the bench but should be raring to go from the off here.

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Score Prediction

Manchester City 2-1 Southampton – This is another tough game for City to deal with, especially off the back of Wednesday’s result. They are stronger than the Saints on paper and Guardiola will be trying to make sure everyone performs to their highest levels to get back on the right side of the scoreline here. The Saints will fancy their chances but ultimately City need to be winning games like this if they are going to lift the title in May.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City

Competition: Premier League – Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City

Venue: White Hart Lane – Sunday, October 2 – 14:15 BST (09:15 ET)

Match Odds: Tottenham 11/5 – Draw 5/2 – Manchester City 23/20

Match Preview

Tottenham welcome Premier League leaders Manchester City to White Hart Lane on Sunday in the standout fixture of the weekend.

Spurs have enjoyed a strong start to the season and remain unbeaten, one of only two sides to do so, the other being Manchester City.

Mauricio Pochettino will be eager for his side to take three points here and signal their intent for the season and he has previous experience of how to beat a Pep Guardiola side.

Tottenham come into this one having won 2-1 away at Boro, another solid performance and their third league win on the bounce.

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Manchester City are absolutely flying. They’re top of the league with maximum points from their first six games.

It is already looking like a case of ‘who can stop us’ from the City camp. Confidence is sky high and they look like a side who know they’re capable of winning the league.

Guardiola will have his players firmly grounded though. He will be expecting a very tough game here and anything other than 100% from his side would be unacceptable in his eyes.

City come into this one having seen off Swansea in a 3-1 win last weekend. It was another example of how comfortable they are looking but there is still room to improve for them in terms of discipline, as Nolito saw red for a moment of madness.

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Team News

Tottenham Hotspur are expecting to be without both Harry Kane and Danny Rose for this tie, while Moussa Dembele, Moussa Sissoko and Eric Dier are all doubts.

Manchester City are without the suspended Nolito, while captain Vincent Kompany is sidelined following his latest injury setback. Kevin De Bruyne is expected to be out for around three weeks after picking up a hamstring injury, he will be a huge miss for City.

Key Points

Tottenham Hotspur’s last five: W/D/W/W/W

Manchester City’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Sign of champions – Manchester City have won all six of their Premier League games this season.

Key Player: Raheem Sterling – The England international is thriving under Pep Guardiola. He looks full of confidence and dangerous with his direct, attacking play.

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Score Prediction

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Manchester City – A cagey, tight affair looks likely for this one. Spurs will be up for the challenge but City have the squad depth and resilience under Pep to overcome the most difficult of challenges and this game will be exactly that.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Stoke City vs Manchester City

Competition: Premier League – Stoke City vs. Manchester City

Venue: Bet365 Stadium – Saturday, August 20 – 12:30 BST (07:30 ET)

Match Odds: Stoke City 19/5 – Draw  14/5 – Manchester City 7/10

Match Preview

Stoke City welcome Manchester City to the newly named Bet365 Stadium in Pep Guardiola’s first away trip in the Premier League, and its arguably one of the hardest places to visit.

Stoke will feel disappointed with the opening day draw with Middlesbrough. Albeit a tricky away trip to a newly promoted team, Mark Hughes will feel like his side could have potentially come away with three points.

It will be a huge task for Stoke to try and improve on last year with the only notable signing thus far being Joe Allen from Liverpool. Their respectable total of 51 points last season will be a tough tally to beat.

However, consistency may be key for the Potters as they have managed to avoid any major exits and are looking to bolster their squad as far as we are aware. A mid-table finish would be a good season for Stoke this year.

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Manchester City have spent big to support Pep Guardiola’s quest for a debut season Premier League title and the bookmakers have them as favourites at the moment.

A dominant display against Sunderland last Saturday was expected but they were far from convincing in the final third, which is not a common fate in Guardiola sides.

However, the main talking point from the opening weekend was the omission of Joe Hart from the starting line up, which has seen the rumours of an imminent move doing the rounds.

Guardiola’s arrival promises excitement and a forward thinking approach that should refresh the league as a whole, but he risks destabilising a well-assembled squad with big decisions like the Hart omission.

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Team News

Stoke City’s Stephen Ireland and Ibrahim Afellay are out till the new year with a broken leg and a ruptured ACL respectively. Glen Johnson has a thigh muscle strain and the game comes to soon for his return. Jack Butland could make his return from an ankle injury that kept him out of the Euros, but he is a doubt.

Manchester City have three injuries to deal with as Leroy Sane is still without a return date on his hamstring. Vincent Kompany is still out with a thigh strain and Ilkay Gundogan has a knee injury. Joe Hart is expected to stay on the bench with a move seeming closer by the day.

Key Points

Stoke City’s form: D

Manchester City’s form: W

Key Stat: Sergio Aguero has scored six goals in his six appearances against Stoke City.

Key Player: Raheem Sterling – After a Euros to forget for the young England winger, he was clearly out to impress on his new manager’s debut. It will be interesting to see if he can fulfil his full potential under Pep Guardiola.

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Score Prediction

Stoke City 1-3 Manchester City  Stoke away is always a tough ask, but City’s dominance in possession last weekend should provide an indication for how this game will be played. Expect Stoke to be a threat on the counter but City should win comfortably.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester City vs Sunderland

Competition: Premier League – Manchester City vs. Sunderland

Venue: Etihad Stadium – Saturday, August 13 – 17:30 BST (12:30 ET)

Match Odds: Man City 1/4 – Draw 19/4 – Sunderland 11/1

Match Preview

Manchester City kick off their 2016/17 Premier League campaign and new era under manager Pep Guardiola at home against Sunderland on Saturday evening.

It’s certainly an exciting time to be a City fan and they will be expecting their side to get off to a winning start here. Fans will be demanding much more than last seasons finish of 4th, they scraped into a Champions League playoff place and given Guardiola’s winning mentality, that would be a complete failure this time around.

Guardiola has made some big money signings throughout the summer transfer window and he will be expecting the new additions, along with the quality in the current squad, to make a strong challenge to win the Premier League.

Manchester City have a strong home record against Sunderland. They have won 11 of the last 13 meetings between the sides in all competitions. And if previous results are anything to go by we could be in for a goal-fest here, as City have scored at least three goals against Sunderland in seven of their last eight home meetings.

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Sunderland will be looking to avoid another relegation battle this season and the club have replaced Sam Allardyce with David Moyes. It is a good appointment for the club, as despite his struggles at Manchester United, Moyes has a wealth of Premier League experience.

The Black Cats stayed up by two points at the end of last season, thanks to the guidance of Allardyce, and it is now time for them to try and push to the next level. A mid-table finish will be an achievable target if Sunderland can iron out their defensive issues that nearly cost them last season.

Moyes has just started to make some summer signings, while some long-term servants have departed the club. There is quality in the Sunderland side, but they have to build a team around a core of players to prove tougher opposition this season.

Sunderland couldn’t have had it much more difficult in their opening game. The buzz around City will be a huge task for them to deal with, but if they can take anything away from their opening weekend fixture confidence will be sky-high. This will be an interesting tie to watch.

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Team News

Manchester City have added the likes of Ilkay Gundogan (£21m), Nolito (£13.8m), Leroy Sane (£37m) and most recently John Stones (£47.5m) to their squad. Guardiola already has some selection headaches as Gundogan, Sane and captain Vincent Kompany are unlikely to feature until September through injuries. Stones has a huge task ahead of him to step up to the mark and fill in for Kompany in the heart of the City defence. We can expect Guardiola to setup with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Sergio Aguero leading the line. Nolito could make his debut out on the left flank, while David Silva is likley to start in the number ten role. Kevin De Bruyne will more than likely start on the right. So far City have only seen two players depart, goalkeeper Richard Wright and Martin Demichelis are their completed outs.

Sunderland have released Wes Brown, Steve Harper and Danny Graham ahead of this season. Their completed ins are former United players Donald Love and Paddy McNair. David Moyes must utilise Jermaine Defoe and build a team to feed their frontman. He netted 15 goals in 33 appearances last season and if they can supply him he will be able to cause opposition defenders headaches like he has done his whole career. There are some concerns about Defoe’s fitness as well as Sebastian Larsson, Jan Kirchhoff and Billy Jones, all four players will be racing to get fit for their opener.

Key Points

Manchester City’s last five: N/A

Sunderland’s last five: N/A

Key Stat: Guardiola saw his Bayern side lose just twice last season, once at home and once away, and they won 15 of their 17 home games. If that is anything to go by we could expect City to become a formidable force at home this season.

Key Player: Sergio Aguero – The obvious choice but Aguero is so integral to City. If Guardiola can get his squad playing his style, Aguero will score for fun. The Argentine goal-machine is so deadly and he will be relishing the battle to win the golden boot this season and fire City to silverware.

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Score Prediction

Manchester City 3-0 Sunderland – City to start off with a bang. This is going to be a very difficult task for Sunderland. While many people have tipped Guardiola to find the Premier League very difficult to adapt to, he will have his side ready to go here. Sunderland will be pleased to get one of the toughest places to visit out of the way so early on.

How does £47.5m Stones fit into Manchester City’s defence?

John Stones completed his £47.5 million move from Everton to Manchester City on Tuesday morning, making him the most expensive defender in Premier League history.

The 22-year-old centre-back has penned a six-year deal and will be looking to develop into one of the game’s best defenders under Pep Guardiola’s guidance at The Etihad.

Stones became the second most expensive defensive signing in world football, behind £50 million PSG star David Luiz, but just where will he fit into Guardiola’s City defence this season?

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Although he is capable of playing at right-back, Stones is a natural ball-playing central defender and will be expecting to play in the heart of the Citizens back four, as opposed to on the right flank.

That gives Guardiola an instant selection headache, with Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany the current first-choice pairing when fit. Eliaquim Mangala and Jason Denayer are also fighting for a place in Guardiola’s defence, so Stones is by no means guaranteed a starting berth with his new side.

Table: John Stones' 2015/16 Premier League statistics compared to Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi (stats via Squawka).

Table: John Stones’ 2015/16 Premier League statistics compared to Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi (stats via Squawka).

Looking at Stones’ statistics from last season, compared to Otamendi and Kompany’s, it is clear he is a different type of defender to his new teammates.

Stones boasted a pass completion rate of 89% over the course of the last campaign – only three centre-backs had a better record in the top flight last term – while the young England star also won more tackles and interceptions than Kompany per 90 minutes.

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The issue is that Stones is weaker in the air than Otamendi and Kompany, with the bigger concern the fact that he made three errors leading to opposition goals last year.

The Barnsley academy product likes to bring the ball out of defence and look for a teammate, as opposed to clearing his lines when receiving the ball. But that does lead to mistakes and he will need to have his decision-making improved by Guardiola.

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If fit, Vincent Kompany will start for City. He is their captain, their leader, and one of the game’s finest defenders. But simply dropping Otamendi to accommodate Stones seems like a bold decision, given the fact that the Argentine made more tackles, blocks, clearances and interceptions than any other City defender last season.

Stones will be available to start City’s Premier League opener at home to Sunderland on Saturday evening and it will now be intriguing to see whether he finds himself in the starting lineup from the word ‘go’.

Should John Stones be a first-choice centre-back for Manchester City? Is he better than Nicolas Otamendi?

MLS Preview and Prediction: Montreal Impact vs New York City FC

Competition: Major League Soccer – Montreal Impact vs. New York City FC

Stadium: Stade Saputo – Sunday, July 17 – 17:00 ET (22:00 BST)

Match Odds: Montreal 11/10 – Draw 12/5 – NYCFC 12/5

Match Preview

Montreal Impact welcome the Eastern Conference leaders New York City FC to Stade Saputo on Sunday evening.

Montreal are fourth in the East. They trail NYCFC by six points ahead of this tie but they do have two games in hand on their opponents.

Mauro Biello’s side come into this one off the back of their 1-1 draw with Portland. They have become the draw specialists in recent weeks with eight of their last 11 games ending with a share of the points.

Impact are unbeaten in five but they have won just one of those ties. They have scored at least twice in 13 of their last 15 at home but have also conceded at last two in five of those last six games. If that is anything to go by we could be in for a high-scoring match here.

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New York City’s four-game winning run came to an end last time out as they lost 3-1 to SKC. A disappointing result for Patrick Vieira’s side but they are still the team to be feared in the East.

NYCFC have plenty of players in top form ahead of this tie, they will be looking for their key players to perform and ensure they bounce back straight away from their defeat.

While New York City fans have every right to brag about being top of the East there is plenty of work to do to ensure they make the playoffs for the first time in their history.

The earlier meeting in the season between these two ended in a 1-1 draw, with Montreal stealing a share of the points in dramatic fashion late on in the tie. Vieira will have his players all too aware of the threat Montreal pose and will not expect them to throw away three points if they get into a winning position again.

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Team News

Montreal could be without four players through injury as Andres Romero and Marco Donadel are expected to be out, while Didier Drogba and Laurent Ciman are both doubts.

New York City FC have just the two injury concerns as Connor Brandt and Steven Mendoza are out.

Key Points

Montreal Impact’s form: D/D/W/D/D

New York City FC’s form: W/W/W/W/L

Key Stat: Montreal are unbeaten in 14 of their last 15 home games in Major League Soccer.

Key Player: Frank Lampard – The midfield goal machine is finally living up to his reputation. The NYCFC man has netted four in his last five. He can be key to his side taking all three points in this tie.

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Score Prediction

Montreal Impact 2-2 New York City FC – If recent form and results are anything to go by we should be in for an action packed draw here. Both of these sides have been scoring freely and Montreal’s home form suggests it is going to be very difficult for New York City FC to take all three points.