Manchester City will be looking to end a four-match winless streak on Sunday at Etihad Stadium, against a very dangerous Southampton side that promises to make this a tough afternoon for the Sky Blues. Pep Guardiola and his men need to respond to that ugly midweek loss to Barcelona, and a victory combined with a great performance against one of the best current teams in the Premier League is definitely a good way to do that.
Pep has spent the last few days having to answer questions about his style of play, who apparently doesn't work anymore. When his team won the first 10 games in beautiful fashion, Guardiola was hailed as the revolutionary who was already changing the English game in his first two months at the job. Four games without a victory later and he's a nutcase who will never stop passing the ball even though this doesn't lead to results in the Premier League. That's the media and the immediate conclusion culture we live in, so we just have to ignore the naysayers and wait for Pep to do his thing.
Because, as Pep pointed out on Friday, he's won 21 titles in 7 years with his style. It'll work at City, it just takes time. It'll be a while before this team plays exactly like Guardiola wants, but that doesn't mean we can't win until then. So let's do that on Sunday.
This should be fun.
Date/Time: Sunday, October 23, 2016, 1:30pm local time, 8:30am ET, 5:30am PT (US), 6pm IST (India)
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
TV listings: NBCSN (US), Telemundo (US - Spanish), TSN (Canada), Sky Sports 1 (UK), Star Sports HD (India), elsewhere
Online streaming: NBC Sports Live (US), Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (US - Spanish), TSN GO (Canada), Sky GO (UK), elsewhere
Man City: Guardiola has only one real concern on his team for Sunday, and it's the right-back position: Bacary Sagna isn't expected back until after the international break, and with Pablo Zabaleta picking up a knock against Barcelona, only youngster Pablo Maffeo is available on the right side of the back line, which probably means Pep will revert to the 3-6-1 formation he used against Everton a week ago. Despite the disappointing result, that formation worked to perfection and created a giant number of chances against a strong Toffees defense. Southampton's defensive system is just as good, if not better, so using last weekend's tactics might be the way to go for Pep.
Besides the formation, there's one big talking point ahead of the game: will Sergio Agüero start? The Argentinean was on the bench in the last two matches due to a combination of bad form and injury worries, but he appears to be fully fit to face Saints from the start. Guardiola said in his pre-match presser that Agüero is part of his plans, and a start for Sergio on Sunday would be a confirmation of that statement.
Southampton: Manager Claude Puel struggled at the start but now has his team playing very good, efficient football, who loves to defend in an organized way and use the pace and firepower in the front line to cause problems on the counter. The problem for Puel in this game is the injuries: both of his starting full-backs are out, and up front Shane Long is also missing through injury while Nathan Redmond remains doubtful because of a knock.
Puel's midfield is healthy, though, and that's been the most impressive part of the team this season. Oriol Romeu, Steven Davis, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Jordy Clasie have rotated spots in the starting lineup, and they provide defensive solidity and support for the creative players on the team, especially Dusan Tadic. Charlie Austin is in fantastic goalscoring form and doesn't need too many chances to find the goal.
This is a really good Southampton side that will still be dangerous even with the absences, and they'll be a tough test for 90 minutes. It's still better for City to beat Southampton right now instead of teams like Hull or Burnley, though, especially as a way to gain confidence and respond to the critics. It won't be easy, but it's definitely doable.
This will probably be a nail-biter unless City score one or two early goals. This won't be a blowout, and Saints aren't really a free scoring side, despite Austin's form. It'll be a narrow result, but one that will favor the Citizens. 2-0 win for the home team.
COME ON CITY!