Hull City will head to the Etihad on Saturday with plans to play ‘giant-killer’ but they will have to be wary of a Manchester City side that will look to flex every fiber and muscle in their collective power as the season’s goals grow more and more narrow.
Here are three things to watch:
1 - Unique Character
The club began accelerating their trophy count with expert players like David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Agüero and Vincent Kompany. In the following years, Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling were brought in to compliment the established veterans as the Blues began to eye more prestigious awards. Pep Guardiola’s personal selection of Leroy Sané, John Stones and Gabriel Jesus has created an even wider web of the caliber desired by the Etihad bosses.
Each of these players (and the rest of the squad) has shown a new level of skill and personality under the new boss. The remaining fixtures of this season will be a test of their talent and their ability to execute Pep’s system.
2 - Stability
Guardiola appears ready to employ as many players as possible in the final run of the season. In the last few matches, Jesús Navas, Fabian Delph and Vincent Kompany have given strong contributions that will indicate their future with City or another club.
Even with impending changes to the squad, it will be crucial that the team finds its stride. They need to solidify a mentality that will get them the wins that have eluded them this season.
3 - Pace
After Sané and Gabriel Jesus sparked the Sky Blues in January, the club has been able to turn over opponents with greater ease. With Silva and De Bruyne as pivot men, beautiful passes and ingenious touches have given City new angles on opponents’ goals.
Unfortunately, there have been some lags on their energy level (against Monaco and Arsenal, in particular) that severely limited what the team could achieve this season.
Pursuing Hull with constant desire and agility, moving intelligently together, and finding true ways to outwit the Tigers will help unite the Etihad in excitement.
The team will benefit at both ends from faster full-backs and return of Gabriel Jesus will surely inspire another boost in their movement and their success in scoring.
For the time being, the ability of each player to understand and operate positively within the system will give the club another shot at Europe and a positive outlook going into the summer.
Hull will not go quietly as they seek to stay out of the relegation zone, so City’s talent will need to be exhibited with full force.