Man City: Caballero, Sagna, Demichelis, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernando, Delph, Touré, De Bruyne, Aguero, Sterling
Southampton: Stekelenburg, Soares, Fonte, van Dijk, Bertrand, Wanyama, Davies, Ward-Prowse, Mane, Long, Tadic
Two defeats in a week. Liverpool’s ‘gegenpressing’ approach during last week’s game at the Etihad could have been an anomaly, City were awful with a whole host of defensive errors. Liverpool were fantastic. City’s defeat in Turin however hints at a greater issue for City that has reared its head once more for Pellegrini. What to do when Kompany gets injured?
With Mangala picking up a knock during the week, it is likely that Demichelis and Otamendi will line up once more against Southampton as they did in Turin. Demichelis undoubtedly has the faith and trust of Pellegrini after their time at Malaga together but it was obvious to see last season that Demichelis struggled in the big games or against pacey opposition. Whilst Mangala’s injury dictates Pellegrini’s selection for this weekend’s game, surely Koeman would have identified the Argentine as the potential weak link in City’s back four this weekend? To further add cause for concern for City’s backline, the loss of Joe Hart is huge for Pellegrini’s second string backline. Going forward for City and Yaya Touré has vanished once more, David Silva continues to be absent and Aguero seems just half a yard of the pace after his return from injury. City’s squad no longer seems to have the depth so revered by the rest of the Premier League only a couple of weeks ago.
Southampton on the other hand represent one of the better form teams in the Premier League at the moment with one defeat in seven, with the performance at Stamford Bridge the undoubted highlight, but draws with Leicester and Liverpool certainly demonstrate Southampton’s ability to deal with a variety of tactical approaches and get results. Ronald Koeman certainly picked up the Southampton ethos from Pochettino two summers ago and whilst he hasn’t quite replicated the heady heights of last season, Southampton remain one of the most enjoyable teams to watch in the league. Graziano Pele will be missing for the Etihad game after picking up a 5th yellow for the season against Stoke. Losing the talented Italian frontman, whilst an annoyance, might not be such an issue for Koeman as a potential front three of Mane, Long and Tadic certainly offers up the prospect of exploiting the attacking fluidity akin to Liverpool’s last week or the potential for taking advantage of the pockets of space behind City’s back four with the pace offered by the rejigged front three.
City vs. Southampton could present one of the better fixtures of the weekend for the neutral. Any points for City, whether that maybe one or three, certainly could represent a job well done come Saturday evening considering their defensive woes. A Southampton win and the South Coast team would find themselves three points behind City come the close of the weekend. Whilst surpassing City come next May doesn’t represent Southampton’s main objective for the season, finishing in the Europa League places surely must be achievable for Koeman’s squad.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Southampton