Manchester City travel north to Sunderland tomorrow in Week 3 of the English Premier League. City sit 4th in the table with four points. They have scored 3 goals while conceding none. Sunderland are in 14th place, with one point. City is coming off a completely dominant win over Liverpool at Eastlands, while Sunderland lost to relegation candidates West Bromwich Albion on a late goal.
As much as games against top sides like Liverpool are important, matches like these are perhaps more important because of the ease with which City should pick up all three points. If the Blues expect to contend in Roberto Mancini's first full year as manager, then they need to bring the same effort into The Stadium of Light as they do Stamford Bridge.
Analysis and possible lineups after the jump.
We'll assume that Roberto Mancini goes with what worked so well against Liverpool. It leaves world class players like David Silva out, but I'm not going to complain. Adam Johnson was a holy terror last weekend, and it would be a travesty if Mancini left him out of the XI. I can't see a starting spot for Mario Balotelli if the formation remains the same.
Joe Hart, and how could it be anyone else? Including Europa League matches, he's on a string of four consecutive clean sheets. While not tested much against Romanian side FC Timisoara, he produced multiple magical moments against Spurs and Liverpool. As good as Shay Given was throughout last year, Joe Hart has been even better through four games. It may be frustrating for Given, the Irish international, but for City, its a good problem to have.
Keys To The Match
- Continue to get wide. Against Tottenham, the lack of quality scoring chances was due to a lack of width. Against Liverpool, the insertion of Adam Johnson and James Milner into the lineup provided an attacking prowess we hadn't yet seen from the Blues. Sunderland's fullbacks are just as susceptible to this tactic as the Reds' were a week ago.
- Don't retaliate. Sunderland are a rather physical club, and tend to (especially Cattermole) put a little extra behind their tackles. As deep as City are, it would be regrettable to see someone like de Jong sent off because things got out of hand.
- Finally, Carlos Tevez needs to become more involved (sound familiar?). Sure, he scored twice against Liverpool, but one was from the penalty spot and the other a complete fluke. Gareth Barry scored the only marker in the run of play. Tevez has been his hard working self, but his first touch is not what we've seen in the past. If the offense is struggling, I would not hesitate to bring on Adebayor or Balotelli in place of the Argentine captain.
Sunderland lined up as follows against WBA, with the exception of a returning-from-suspension Lee Cattermole:
Key To The Match
The Black Cats, quite simply, must retain possession. Manchester City's trio of Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry, and Nigel de Jong have completed an astonishing percentage of passes to each other in the first two league games, which in turn has kept their opponents from getting good looks at goal. If Sunderland can keep the ball (which I doubt), they have the quality attacking players to do damage.
The gap in talent is so large, that even if City were to play horribly, they could likely still earn points. That said, there's no reason to fool around. Darren Bent needs to be neutralized by Kolo Toure and Vincent Kompany, but it shouldn't be much of an issue considering their sterling run of form. All three points should be in the bag for Manchester City in a 2-0 win.