Following a calamitous night at Wolves, Pep Guardiola’s men look to return to winning ways as they welcome Sheffield United to the Etihad Stadium.
The Blues haven’t faced the Blades in over 10 years, and with more points dropped, the match is must-win. Sheffield United have not lost a single away game this season, and travel over Snake Pass believing they stand a very good chance of getting a result at the home of the champions.
In the loss to Wolves, Manchester City had just 10-men for around 80 minutes and very few expected the Blues to win following Ederson’s early dismissal. However, despite the disappointing result, there were certainly positives to take from the loss at Molineux - effort, passion and work-rate from the City players especially Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling who certainly ran their socks off.
Finding themselves in 7th place, a point behind 5th place Wolves, Manchester City’s opponents on Sunday were seriously underestimated by many fans, and widely labelled relegation favourites. However, the Blades have surprised many fans this season and a spot in the top six is not unfathomable, although a top-ten finish below the European places is far more likely.
Claudio Bravo is set to start in goal as Brazilian shot-stopper Ederson is suspended following his red card against Wolves. Gabriel Jesus’ involvement will depend on his health on the day, after missing the Wolves defeat through illness. David Silva and John Stones are expected to be missing from the matchday squad through injury. Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte are once again absent and are set to remain on the sidelines for a little while longer.
In contrast to Manchester City, Sheffield United have a fully-fit squad and no players suspended.
Head to Head
Manchester City first encountered Sheffield United in March 1893, under the name Ardwick FC, and the two clubs have since faced off 120 times since, with the blues picking up 49 victories. The two sides have only met six times since the turn of the century, as the Sheffield outfit have spent most of the decade bouncing around the lower divisions - each side has won two of those six fixtures along with two stalemates.
Whilst in possession, the Blades often utilise a 3-5-2 formation and attempt to overload wide positions with their wing-backs and their renowned ‘overlapping centre-backs’ - most notably Chris Basham, who often looks to drive the team forward from the heart of the defence. United are also a dangerous threat from set-pieces, mainly wide free-kicks. Considering City’s lack of height and Bravo’s less than commanding aerial presence around his goalmouth, this could prove a serious threat to the Blues, especially considering our nonsense defending in recent weeks.
In transition, United switch to a 4-4-2 with one wing-back dropping into a back-four, whilst the other presses the ball depending on the location of play. It should be noted that Wilder’s tactics vary on the Blades’ opponents and a high-intensity press is usually reserved for teams far less comfortable than Manchester City in possession.
When not in possession, United generally switch to a more defensively sound 5-3-2 formation and allow their opponents space out wide, almost inviting crosses into their box knowing that their central defenders' aerial prowess will repel almost everything. The Blades have the second best defensive record in the Premier League, yet despite their astuteness, an apparent weakness in their backline is their lack of pace and their susceptibility to being caught on the counter-attack. However, given the experience and erudition of 2019 LMA Manager of the Year Chris Wilder, it would be wise to predict that he will set his side up to generally sit-deep and greatly reduce the threat of a deadly Manchester City counter-attack.
Chris Kavanagh will oversee Sunday’s fixture between The Blues and The Blades. The select group one official last took charge of a City match in November when The Blues drew 2-2 with Newcastle. Kavanagh will be joined by assistants Sian Massey-Ellis and Constantine Hatzidakis, while John Brooks will be the fourth official. Stuart Attwell is to be overseeing matters from Stockley Park, where he will be joined by Stephen Child at the VAR hub.
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