All eyes of the Premier League will be on these two teams as they square off on Monday in the final game of Matchweek 25. With a win, Manchester City could solidify their stride of confidence and instill a bit of fear and respect in other title contenders. AFC Bournemouth have exploited weaknesses in top teams like Liverpool and Arsenal, so the Citizens will have good reason to make bring their best.
Here are three things to watch:
1 - Execution
City need to be decisive. With the amount of time they spent in Swansea City’s penalty box for the last 30 minutes of the first half last week, they should have scored more goals before the break. With a 1-0 scoreline, any side would feel confident of unsettling the Blues’ defense. Sinking multiple chances in the first 20 minutes would swell City’s swagger.
Whether the Citizens' newfound energy can be attributed to any single player, their feet will feel free when they stack goals against opponents.
With AS Monaco on the horizon, they will want to have their weapons in prime form. More specifically for Bournemouth and the Premier League, City will want to deflate Eddie Howe’s hopes of another upset.
2 - Team Selection
If the media surrounding the Premier League love to nibble at bits of information regarding team selection and management of superstars, Pep Guardiola’s style has given them a lot of substance to question.
In preparation for the Bournemouth match, Guardiola commented on the widespread fitness and talent of his team. Nolito, for instance, has nothing to do to gain a spot in the starting XI. In such situations, along with the treatment of Sergio Agüero, Claudio Bravo, and a number of others, the Catalan manager asked reporters to recognize how tough such decisions are on a compassionate manager.
The bottom line, though, is the success of those who step onto the pitch during major competitions. A front three of Leroy Sané, Gabriel Jesus, and Raheem Sterling has led Pep to more consistent selection than earlier other points in the campaign. Yaya Touré, Kevin De Bruyne, and David Silva seem equally indispensable, as well.
Willy Caballero has represented a rise in City’s defensive form, and the return of Vincent Kompany would satisfy practical needs and romantic desires of seeing the Belgian back in place.
3 - Pace
With the invention of a young, fleet-footed front line, City look to create a new era of lightning fast manipulation of space. Sané and Sterling often receive the ball with their heels on the touchline — a trademark of Guardiola’s approach — and have consistently improved their success in creating good chances after going directly at defenders in one-on-one situations.
Advanced players have been noticeable in recent weeks as they double back on defense. As a result, counter-attacks have been well-connected as the team expands quickly from compact formations.
It has been alleged that Gabriel Jesus’ success in stealing a spot from Agüero is directly correlated to the Brazilian’s ability to run throughout the match and contribute endless straight-out sprints.
Yaya Touré has been more agile in his reinvigorated form. Really, the entire squad is being forced to keep up with the young speed-demons and it looks to be paying dividends.
In the long term vision of the ‘City Project,’ the match against Bournemouth will reflect continued efforts to improve the squad’s ‘strength in both boxes.’
In the immediate ramifications for the team, it will determine their standing in a chaotic title pursuit of Chelsea, as well as building their confidence for an FA Cup tie with Huddersfield Town and Monaco’s visit to the Etihad in two weeks.
The current squad has a lot to prove, partly because they’ve shown such promise on a wide range of occasions. A riotous performance in front of Bournemouth’s home supporters would mark another notch on City’s efforts to fully implement their style.