Anticipating Monday’s match against Hull City requires simultaneous preparation for a New Year’s Eve faceoff against Liverpool and the game against Burnley on January 2nd. The Sky Blue squad primarily needs to continue developing the approach that brought them six points out of their last two matches. Regardless of specifics, the holiday period is crucial to Pep Guardiola’s first year in charge at the Etihad. Below are three concepts that will play important factors on Boxing Day.
1 - City with The Feeling
Will we see the Manchester City whose talent manifests in undeniable character and personality?
Electricity seems to spark off the ball when Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva get quick feeds from Fernandinho and the defenders to engage gifted wingers like Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané, or feed the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho to finish the deal.
There have not been many early-scoring, multiple-goal games for Pep Guardiola’s team. A confidence boost of that nature — for the remainder of the game, the holiday stretch, and the rest of the season — would be killer. Another game of stalled-out passing and missed chances would be more than unfortunate.
2 - Personnel
After relative success against Watford and Arsenal, will Nicolas Otamendi, Aleksandar Kolarov, and Gaël Clichy get the nod on defense, leaving John Stones on the bench for a third straight game? Will Sagna replace Zabaleta?
If Fernandinho returns, he will help to stabilize whoever plays in the back four. No matter what, the center-backs, in particular, will have to play 90 minutes with maturity and discipline that has been elusive for City of late.
Yaya Touré or Fernando could start alongside Fernandinho in a 4-2-3-1. If the team sets up in a 4-3-3, De Bruyne and Silva might flank the recently suspended Brazilian in slightly more advanced roles. The Belgian and Spaniard midfielders are excellent leaders for the attack.
When both play behind a front three, the all-out attackers benefit from unrivaled setup play. If Sané and Sterling arrive at the KCOM stadium with the same cunning versatility that was on display in the last two games at the Etihad, the midfielders will have excellent options to feed.
In Sergio Agüero’s fourth and final game of his most recent suspension and the second to last game without Gabriel Jesus, whoever is chosen as striker will be looking to make a difference. Kelechi Iheanacho or Nolito (most likely) will be surrounded by unrivaled talent. Their ability to put Hull City on their heels could help to turn the game quickly and keep it in the Sky Blues' favor.
3 - Discipline
Even if City scores early and often, they need to demonstrate the resolve to completely control the game. That has been the ideal for City supporters all along but Premier League teams have fought the Sky Blues valiantly.
If Hull presses Pep’s team from the start, they will have to dig deep and use their preparation to open up the game to their advantage. If Hull sits back and makes City pass from side to side, the Blues will need to keep their edge, their creativity, and their defensive focus.
The footballing world is waiting to see Pep Ball produce a masterful performance at City. Building off of the last two games with solid defense and an absolute hunger for goals would be a step in the right direction. Building confidence and momentum would be more than beneficial with a visit to Anfield on the horizon. Hopefully the team makes a definitive statement to start their holiday schedule.