Manchester City Encounter the Wolf Pack: Match Preview, Team News, Lineup Predictions
Manchester City kick off their first game of the 2020/21 Premier League season at the Molineux Stadium against a challenging Wolves team. We present to you some context surrounding both clubs along with the team news, lineup prediction, and key details.
Everton 5-2 West Bromwich Albion, Leeds United 4-3 Fulham, Southampton 2-5 Tottenham, Leicester City 4-2 Burnley.
These are just a chunk of results from the second matchday of the new Premier League season. A grand total of 39 goals scored in just 8 fixtures is record beginnings in the Premier League and just one of the multiple eventful occurrences; a needle in the haystack labelled ‘2020’. Goals, red cards, penalties, and drama came in surplus amounts accompanied by Premier League football excitement. Fantasy Premier League managers witnessed their research (and luck) come to life with shedloads of points, as the rare few pulled the blankets over their heads for an early slumber of transfer regrets, accompanied by all Manchester United fans after their 3-1 loss against Crystal Palace in their first game of the season.
We realize we haven’t mentioned Manchester City yet. There has not been much live-action in men football for City fans up till this point except their struggles in the transfer window, training pictures, and injury updates. Manchester City start the season far from ideal conditions and with no proper pre-season; their last professional game against Lyon is one we wish to forget. Pep Guardiola’s team play their first match on Monday night (or early hours of Tuesday for all the Asian football fans) when most teams would have completed two games in the Premier League. Both Manchester clubs received a minimum one month off due to involvement in the latter stages of European competitions. This resulted in City’s first Premier League fixture against Aston Villa being postponed, and thus, an away game against Wolves is how they kick off their fresh new campaign.
CONTEXT: MANCHESTER CITY
Anticipation, curiosity, and expectations are at an all-time high this season among City fans after a rollercoaster 2019/20 campaign, albeit the tracks stretched downhill for a large duration of it. Plenty of vulnerabilities surfaced in a not-so-perfect season plotted with mentality concerns, injury problems, and pressure-dealing ability on the pitch. Self-reflection and change became vital. Evident mistakes needed work.
The transfer window is synonymous with the previous season. While promising long term business was done in the form of Ferran Torres and Nathan Ake, our target transfers have not been achieved yet. There is plenty of outrage from the fans to not replicate the failure of replacing Vincent Kompany from 2 seasons ago. A stable presence in the backline, namely Koulibaly, is a transfer that has failed to materialize yet as City hunt for other options like Koundé from Sevilla. The good news is that there are 4 Premier League games to play before the transfer window ends on 5th October 2020, providing some important on-pitch practical insight. The bad news is also that there are 4 Premier League games to play in the duration of this transfer window, meaning mistakes and the lack of stability on the pitch will be punished in an intense season with clubs rebuilding and upgrading as they become stronger than before.
Moreover, with such limited pre-season time and no friendlies to experiment with strategies and players, there is understandable anxiety as we head into the new season. How much time has been spent to understand and work on evident problems? Will our approach be different this season against challenging opponents? How will we adapt to certain tactics posed against us? The first fixture against a challenging Wolves team will reveal a fair bit of the answers we seek.
CONTEXT: WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS
It is important to talk about Portugal, who have had an eye-catching last two seasons in the Premier League, finishing seventh on both occasions.
Correction - It is important to talk about *Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have had an eye-catching last two seasons in the Premier League, finishing seventh on both occasions.
Manager Nuno Espírito Santo has assembled and guided a disciplined team capable of being top crop in the English football. 19/20 saw them manage Europa League commitments as well as reproduce their howling energy as they produced a decent patch of performances. However, the start to their campaign was ultra-slow last season, not winning their first 6 games in the Premier League before defeating Watford and then us, reigniting their flair. They started the new 20/21 Premier League season in contrary fashion with a commanding 2-0 win over Sheffield United, and it is on Manchester City to suppress this confidence which they plan to bring into the second game of the season.
The team has upgraded its ranks with record arrival Fabio Silva, Marcal, and Hoever. However, Matt Doherty has transferred to Spurs while Diogo Jota was recruited by Liverpool; both players instrumental in the club's previous campaign.
HEAD TO HEAD
In the 4 meetings between the two clubs in the past two seasons, it would be painful memories for Manchester City fans recalling the 2-0 and 3-2 losses from the previous one as Wolves completed a double over us. Unlike the 2019/2020 season, Manchester City did not lose any of the fixtures in the 2018/19 season against the same team; winning one and drawing the other. However, Manchester City visit the Molineux Stadium, where they are winless in the last two games there since Wolves’ promotion to the Premier League. A cursed stadium which also witnessed our heaviest opening day loss of 8-1 in 1962.
Both clubs have faced each other on 122 occasions and interestingly have a combined goal difference of zero. The last time Manchester City won at the Molineux Stadium was in the title-winning 11/12 season, with Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri scoring in a 2-0 triumph. The previous trip to the Molineux though was a 3-2 loss which saw Ederson dismissed early on and Wolves recording 62.2% possession, the highest percentage recorded by a club against Pep Guardiola. This reveals how challenging this fixture is from a City perspective, as a strong mentality is of utmost priority when facing a side boasting some impressive records against us lately.
Although, Manchester City’s opening day record flips the coin. The sky blues have won every single opening day game since 2011, and the pattern was set to repeat with the original Matchday 1 fixture scheduled against Aston Villa. However, technically speaking, City head straight into the second game of a unique season with their first postponed and thus, it is all the more important to justify this ‘opening fixture’ record and keep the streak going. A win for City will not only kickstart the campaign on a positive note but also reassert dominance on a club who have enjoyed frustrating us in recent times, especially while hosting us at the Molineux.
It was a dagger to every City fan’s hearts when Pep publically stated that our primary talisman Sergio Aguero is still recovering from a meniscus injury sustained in June, and it could be a while before he is fully fit to feature. Sergio Aguero’s impressive record of seven opening-day goals will also not be added to what is probably his last season with the club.
The manager also ruled out Aymeric Laporte who is not ready to feature after contracting the virus, only participating in limited training sessions. Bernardo Silva, although not publically mentioned, is also doubtful to start. Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden will both be available to feature, as Ferran Torres and Nathan Ake await their debuts for Manchester City. Ilkay Gündoğan has recently tested Co-vid positive and will not feature. We wish him a speedy recovery.
With Aguero out injured and only one striker at our disposal, photos of youth forward Liam Delap training with the first team delighted the fanbase. We hope he gets some minutes sooner rather than later for the first team squad.
Manchester City enter this game comparatively fresher, who got more than a whole week to train for the match, unlike Wolves who played Stoke City on Thursday. A number of usual players featured despite some changes, as Jiminez, Podence, and Neto came from the bench.
Jonny is the only long-term absentee for Wolves with a knee injury and is completely ruled out. It would be most interesting to see Adama Traore’s role and how Manchester City deal with a player who made an absolute nuisance of our defence last season.
We request you not to take this section to heart, as we are managed by a certain manager going by the name of Pep Guardiola, popularly referred to as ‘the bald fraud’; an iconic tag representing his unpredictability when it comes to tactics and lineups (We love him nonetheless).
We shall attempt to predict a probable lineup anyway. And it is highly likely that Fernandinho is part of the starting 11 against Wolves, since his recent election as the club’s official captain. Pep was full of praises and exclaimed Fernandinho’s capability to lead the team in bad moments, and what is better than a Wolves opening fixture to showcase this entrusted responsibility?
This will also be a big season for both Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus, who will be looking to justify their roles and positively impact City’s performance to prove a mark.
We predict an attacking 4-3-3 formation featuring Foden. The curiosity is highest in the centre-back department for Manchester City. Will it be a possible final game for Nicolas Otamendi, a feature for the young Eric Garcia, a debut for Nathan Ake, or an inclusion of John Stones who is desperate to contribute positively and make amends? We go with Ake.
4:3:3: Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Stones, Mendy; Rodri, Foden, De Bruyne; Sterling, Jesus, Mahrez
Subs: Steffen, Cancelo, Otamendi, Ake, Bernardo, Torres, Delap.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistants: Scott Ledger, Simon Long
Fourth official: Jonathan Moss
VAR: Peter Bankes
Assistant VAR: Timothy Wood.
It is not in our manager’s character to be fixated on the past. A new season, despite some hurdles, is always a fresh start with renewed energy and motivation in one of the best teams in the world, quite capable of steamrolling every opponent on their way. Pep Guardiola is well aware of the mistakes made last season and Wolves' capability to hurt us in the Premier League and is perhaps the only person to also get us out of that disappointment. There are all smiles in the training session and the Catalan manager's response in the press conference was as positive as ever.
"The feeling is good, as always. It is a joy to work with these players and this club - so the feeling is always good like it was.
I see the team as always in an incredible mood. It’s a joy to work with them. We have good expectations to do good football and get the results this club deserves. We want to continue the consistency."
– Pep Guardiola
It is another nervous but exciting start to the Premier League, and we can’t wait to watch City start off the new season with a win (hopefully not another goalfest which will make us bang our heads against the wall with frustration on seeing John Stones getting 'megged by Traore). If we don't win, it will only do good to reveal us evident problems in the very first game, which will be taken care of in the transfer market and acted upon in the near future. After all, we have the best crop of talents in the world, proudly including a PFA Player of the Year this time around. And it is time to show what we are really capable of!
Date: Tuesday, 22nd September 2020
Kickoff: 00.45 IST
TV: Star Sports Select 1 and Star Sports Select 1HD
Get yourself some drinks for tonight and Enjoy!