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Manchester City vs Watford, 2016 Premier League: Team News, Preview, Predictions

Must-win game. Real must-win.

Manchester City FC v Celtic FC - UEFA Champions League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Life has to move on for Manchester City, even though it's hard. After losing 7-3 in the last two games combined, a #Crisis has definitely been installed at the Etihad, and Pep Guardiola hasn't dealt with so many doubts about his capabilities as a manager since he took over Barcelona in 2008. Nobody knew if his style would work back then, the first half of his first season wasn't that great, and it just seemed like Pep wasn't good enough.

Eight years later, the Catalan manager is going through the exact same process. It's not a coincidence, and it's simple: Guardiola is so different from everything that exists in football and causes such a shock to everyone around him that anything worse than super spectacular means he's not that great, that England is too good for his style, and that Pep basically sucks.

The Leicester City loss was simbolic, and even though the outcome was not nearly his fault, it's been treated as such, and he has to deal with it. He had to deal with criticism in Barcelona and Munich, and his results back then proved he's ultimately right.

In the crazy immediate reaction football culture we live, everything has to happen and work right now, but it's not like that. Against Watford on Wednesday, Guardiola has a chance to shut his doubters, at least for a day. Not that he cares about the doubters, but they need to stop, at least for a day.

Let the man work. Please.


Date/Time: Wednesday, December 14th, 2016, 8pm BST (UK), 9pm CET (Europe), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (US), 1:30pm IST (India, Thursday)

Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England

Referee: Kevin Friend

TV listings: Premier League Extra Time (US), TSN4 (Canada), Star Sports HD 2 (India), elsewhere

Online streaming: NBC Sports Live (US), TSN GO (Canada), BBC Radio Manchester (UK - Radio), elsewhere


Man City: Did Guardiola play three at the back at the Leicester Disaster because he didn't have Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi, and he just didn't trust anyone to form a back four with Sagna, Stones and Kolarov? We'll never really know, but if Otamendi returns from suspension right into the starting lineup in a back four, we'll have a pretty big hint.

What Pep is looking for is consistency. He is a rotation coach, but he also likes to have a spine, a group of players who rarely rotate out of the starting lineup. It's safe to say Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne are part of that, but the Brazilian is out and the Belgian is in poor form at the moment, and... that's it for the spine. Perhaps having three or four more players to form that undroppable group is the answer to some of the problems, and that's especially the case at the back.

Can Otamendi and Stones finally settle as the CB partnership without Kompany and with Nico's cards wiped out? Can Kolarov and Clichy be at least decent? Can Sagna stay healthy and provide smart defense and passing? Can Zabaleta show some of his old self going forward? If all the pieces come together, then the City defense will be fine until January comes around.

The attack is just fine — actually, it's awesome —, and if the defense can provide some support and security, then Pep's offense can hit Watford's questionable (at best) back four with ease. Playing at home helps, City have played well at home in almost every game this season, and the opportunity is right there for the taking. Just gotta take it.

Watford: Walter Mazzarri has had a quite decent start to his Watford career, leading the Hornets to 21 points in 15 matches. Just like City, the defense is Watford's biggest concern, which is surprising for a team coached by an Italian. Their form has been inconsistent lately, with three wins and three losses in their last six games, and on their day they could be a fantastic team like they were in the win against Everton at the weekend, but they could also turn into a team that conceded 6 goals to Liverpool a few weeks back.

You just never know with Watford. And that's why they're dangerous. Watch for Troy Deeney and the in-form Stefano Okaka up front, as well as the returning Roberto Pereyra. Watford's center-backs are not good defenders but are awesome headers of the ball, and set pieces are already a concern for City before the game even starts.



WE HAVE GOT TO WIN A GAME. And we'll do this time, I promise. 4-0 win with a very good performance and a great response from players and manager. Believe.