Manchester City made their worse start to a Premier League season in six years last Saturday, after dropping points for a third time in five games at West Ham. This weekend, Pep Guardiola’s side travel over the Pennines to face Sheffield United, knowing anything but three points would leave their title chances in a perilous position.
City, who despite looking somewhat close to their best in midweek in Marseille, failed to win at the London Stadium for the first time last weekend, as they were held to a disappointing and potentially damaging 1-1 draw. Guardiola faced criticism for opting not change his team for the first time in over three years and had to watch his side squander possession and fall behind within 20 minutes. Phil Foden came off the bench to make sure of a point, but it was very much deja vu in terms of what went wrong.
However, a dominant display on Wednesday night in the Champions League saw a slick and stylish City side come out 3-0 winners. Ferran Torres, Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling were the scorers, and Kevin De Bruyne was the provider on two occasions as City looked a bit more like the City side we have become accustomed to seeing.
Many will hope that the victory in France can kickstart City’s campaign given they are already five points off the pace and that they welcome Liverpool to the Etihad next Sunday. Fixtures are continuing to come thick and fast and before next weekend's big game, City have two fixtures; the first of which comes on Saturday lunch-time where they face last season’s surprise package, Sheffield United. Chris Wilder’s side finished 9th last season but so far this season have struggled and find themselves in 19th position, without a league win.
Ahead of City’s short trip to Yorkshire, here is everything you need to know...
Pep Guardiola did provide an injury update in his pre-match press conference as he announced that Sergio Agüero is “progressing” but currently unable train after the striker sustained a hamstring injury at West Ham.
The Catalan coach said Gabriel Jesus and Nathan Aké were “getting better” though it is unknown whether the pair will be play any part this weekend. Benjamin Mendy will also be absent as he continues to recover from injury.
Chris Wilder doesn’t have any injury concerns as he looks to avoid suffering five losses at home on the bounce. Defender Max Lowe will be available after suffering concussion a fortnight ago, while John Lundstrum is still expected to be part of the squad despite reports emerging that he is refusing to sign a new contract.
Manchester City and England full-back Kyle Walker will likely make his 100th League appearance for the Blues against his boyhood club on Saturday. Walker joined in 2017 for £50 million from Tottenham and has since started 138 of the 151 games he has for played City and won eight pieces of silverware during the three years.
Head To Head:
The Blades have never beaten the Blues in the Premier League era and this weekend will be their ninth attempt. Since the first meeting between the two sides in March 1893, there have been 123 fixtures, with City having won 51, drawn 34 and lost 38. They have scored 205 goals in those 123 past games and conceded 184.
The last time Sheffield won against City was in the FA Cup in 2008, with it taking over a decade for the two teams to meet again. Their last league victory over City came in the first division in January 2000, with Manchester City now unbeaten in their last six league meetings with a 2-0 win at the Etihad and 1-0 win at Bramall Lane last season.
As mentioned, City have only won twice in the league so far this season and although a game behind most others, find themselves with eight points out of a possible 15 - their lowest total since the 2014/15 season and Pep Guardiola’s worst ever start to a season.
As a result of the poor start, City find themselves situated in 13th place with eight points. The two Merseyside clubs occupy the top two spots with 13 points each, while City are just four points away from the top four. Spurs in 5th and Manchester United in 15th are split by four points. City, though, haven’t lost in their last five games in all competitions with two Champions League wins against Marseille and Porto, a league victory against Arsenal and draws to Leeds and West Ham.
Sheffield find themselves winless in the league and in a precarious position. Sat in 19th, with one point from their opening six games and having only scored three goals, Chris Wilder has got multiple issues to address given only a handful of clubs have avoided relegation when having one point or less at this stage of a season. The Blades’ most recent defeat came at Anfield last weekend where, despite taking the lead, they went on to lose 2-1.
Micheal Oliver will take charge of his 11th game this season on Saturday when he oversees City’s trip to Sheffield. The official, who has taken charge of games in Switzerland, Israel, Russia and Germany already this season, was in the middle for Spurs’ win at Burnley on Monday night. He will be joined by assistant referees Stuart Burt and Simon Bennett as well as fourth official Peter Bankes at Bramall Lane. VAR duties have been assigned to Paul Tierney (VAR) and Andy Halliday (AVAR).
You can follow Harry on Twitter here: @harrywinters16
Follow us on Twitter for live updates: @City_Xtra