The Rank and Report Football Show are back to run you through everything you need to know about Saturday afternoon's opposition - as Pep Guardiola's side host Burnley at the Etihad Stadium, in what feels like a must-win game to retain any hope of cutting down the gap between City and the top of the table.

OPPOSITION REPORT: BURNLEY

LEAGUE POSITION: 17th [1 game in hand]
SEASON BREAKDOWN:
1W – 2D – 5L
MANAGER:
Sean Dyche
KEY PLAYERS:
Nick Pope, Dwight McNeil & Chris Wood

PREDICTED XI

burnley lineup

The season so far for Burnley

Burnley travel to the Etihad Stadium this weekend having just notched their first league win of the season against Roy Hodgson's Crystal Palace.

Unsurprisingly, the victory was a narrow 1-0, as Chris Wood’s early finish was enough to see the Clarets over the line. The single goal was only their fourth strike of the season - the joint-lowest in the league alongside Sheffield United.

Before last weekend, Burnley had gone four games in all competitions without a goal, including goalless outings against West Brom and Brighton. Clearly, Burnley’s biggest hurdle is finding the back of the net.

Sean Dyche’s side have partially compensated for this by keeping things tight at the back. The Clarets come into Saturday’s tie having only conceded one more than Manchester City in the league, and will be keen to continue their run of two consecutive clean sheets.

Season after season, Dyche seems to defy the odds and guide relatively poor Burnley squads to Premier League safety. After a winless first seven games, it seemed as though his incredible run may be over. However, their solitary win has launched them clear of the relegation zone, at least for now. 

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The Burnley Threat

Teams that have hurt Manchester City in recent weeks, and there have been many, have tended to soak up pressure before springing rapid counterattacks.

Fortunately for Burnley, Dyche is an expert at soaking up pressure. His tactics are as old-fashioned as they come - two well-organised, rigid banks of four who shuffle in unison to try and restrict their opponents to shots from distance.

Those who fall into the Burnley trap and let fly from range will have to overcome goalkeeper Nick Pope, whose impressive shot stopping has put him in serious contention for the England No. 1 jersey.

Unfortunately for Dyche’s men, they do not have the pace nor the trickery to consistently threaten City on the counterattack.

The traditional 4-4-2 uses wingers who stay wide and generally look to send crosses into the box. England Under-21 international Dwight McNeil has a wicked left foot which should ask questions of centre-backs Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte on Saturday afternoon.

Big-man Chris Wood will be fighting to get on the end of them – an accomplished finisher, a physical presence and a great header of the ball. The Kiwi has half of Burnley’s league goals this campaign and has hit double figures in every season since his transfer from Leeds in 2017.

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If Dyche wants to pair Wood with a fellow big man, Ashley Barnes is likely to start alongside him. However, after assisting Wood against Crystal Palace, Jay Rodriguez is likely to get the nod in a supporting role.

The Englishman is more refined than Barnes, while he has a tendency to shoot on site which might be exactly what Burnley need in a game where they are likely to manufacture few chances.

On paper, this should be a banker for City. Burnley are well-drilled and physical, but they should have a hard time creating clear opportunities. There will be serious concerns if the Blues fail to break them down over the course of 90 minutes. 

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