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First team

Media View: Expert insight on Bristol City

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to maintain their unbeaten start to the season when they face Championship rivals Bristol City at Ashton Gate on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

The Cherries currently top the table having won seven and drawn four of their first 11 league games under head coach Scott Parker.

Bristol City have had a Jekyll and Hyde start to the 2021/22 campaign, the Robins boasting the best away record but one of the least impressive home records.

Nigel Pearson’s team have triumphed on their travels at Reading (3-2), Cardiff (2-1), QPR (2-1) and Peterborough (3-2).

But they have failed to register a victory at Ashton Gate since January, last season’s run of ten winless home games added to by draws with Blackpool (1-1), Preston (0-0), Luton (1-1) and Fulham (1-1) and a defeat at the hands of Swansea (1-0).

Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Gregor MacGregor who follows the fortunes of the Robins for Bristol Live and the Bristol Post.

BRISTOL CITY PROFILE

Ground: Ashton Gate

Nickname: The Robins

Manager: Nigel Pearson (appointed February 2021)

Club captain: Dan Bentley

Current league position: ninth

Leading goalscorer 2021/22: Chris Martin and Andreas Weimann (four in the Championship)

Last game: Peterborough 2-3 Bristol City (Championship) 

afcb.co.uk: How have the first couple of months of the season gone for the Robins?

GM: Pretty well. I think most Bristol City fans are pleased with where the club is at the moment. They were probably expecting them to have been doing a little worse than they are.

The results are very distinctly going along two lines. Away from home, no other team has won more points in the Championship this season.

I know Bournemouth have played one game fewer, but City have got 12 points on the road from four wins.

At home, they haven’t won since 26th January. The big talking point is about when the run is going to end.

They have done okay but they have got to get their home form moving forward.

afcb.co.uk: Can you put your finger on the reason behind the disparity between home and away results?

GM: Not really. It’s something Nigel Pearson gets asked about regularly because it’s been going on for some time.

To be fair to Nigel, it’s been a pretty long-running thing and Bristol City have not played well at home for some time.

Occasionally, they have had the odd scratchy win here and there but they have never really put together any sustained form at Ashton Gate.

I would say it is most likely one of those quirks in football. Maybe the team needs to do a bit more to get the fans onside after a pretty lacklustre couple of seasons and an all-round dreadful 2020/21.

Away from home, they are a solid side. They are set up well and well organised under Nigel Pearson. He has made them tough to break down and they don’t give away too many goals via mistakes which they had done previously.

They are an improving side but people are scratching their heads as to why they can’t get a win at home. 

afcb.co.uk: How would you assess Nigel Pearson’s eight months in charge?

GM: Steadily getting better and better. He came in and immediately got a couple of wins which were really what they needed to be sure of not being relegated. That probably justified him coming in.

From then on, they were the worst team in the Championship and a lot of people this way believed that if the season had gone on any longer, they could well have dropped into the bottom three.

They ended the season with seven defeats in their last nine games. I know every club decries injuries but they had a lot. We believe they had the worst injury list in the EFL last season.

There was a review in the summer and they brought in Dave Rennie from Leicester City as head of medical performance. It’s been much better on that front.

Player availability has been much improved, they are getting their regular first-choice XI out a lot and that’s probably contributed largely to them doing much better this season. They seem to be nicely positioned in the table now.  

afcb.co.uk: Who has been the pick of the summer signings?

GM: Rob Atkinson, a central defender they reportedly paid £1.6million for from Oxford United.

He’s been very steady at the back and has played every league game this season.

Bristol City fans might have expected Tomas Kalas to be ever present but Atkinson has been the steady man and the player to build around.

He’s has stepped up from League One and hasn’t looked out of place whatsoever. I’d probably go as far as to say he might well have been their best player to date. 

afcb.co.uk: Tell us a little about Andreas Weimann?

GM: Andi and Chris Martin were both part of a very good Dean Holden team that started last season with four wins out of four.

Andi suffered an ACL injury against Swansea a year ago which ruled him out for the rest of the season.

He had never sustained a long-term injury before and worked very hard to recover and regain his fitness.

Things started to go downhill for the team without him and he’s a key player. He works so tirelessly off the ball and has won round Nigel Pearson as well.

In the summer, Nigel went on record to say he wanted to bring in another striker but he got a good tune out of both Andi and Chris Martin.

He started playing Andi wide but he’s now playing more centrally which suits him. The club doesn’t seem to have as much need for a striker with both those guys scoring goals at the moment.

afcb.co.uk: Who is City’s one to watch?

GM: I’ll go for Matty James. He was a free transfer in the summer and another player Nigel Pearson knew very well from his time at Leicester City.

He did the business getting Leicester promoted from the Championship a few years ago.

He’s played every game in the middle and is one of Pearson’s trusted lieutenants. He’s also a respected figure in the dressing room.

He’s got an excellent passing range and knits together the play very nicely. He also takes the set-pieces and City have been pretty good on them this season.

afcb.co.uk: Are any key players either suspended or injured against the Cherries?

GM: There are no suspensions.

Regarding injuries, Nigel Pearson confirmed at his pre-match press conference that Han-Noah Massengo, Callum O'Dowda, Nahki Wells and Nathan Baker all trained this week and are in contention for the weekend after missing the last game against Peterborough.

The only missing player is Antoine Semenyo, as the versatile forward makes his way back following a knee niggle.

afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?

GM: Bristol City are due a home win and, on paper, it would be absolutely ridiculous to choose this game given that Bournemouth are unbeaten and City haven’t win at home since 26th January.

It makes no sense but I’m going to go for it and say City are going to win 2-1! 

You can follow Gregor on Twitter – @GeeMacGee 

Officials: Gavin Ward (referee), Graham Kane (assistant), Robert Merchant (assistant), Stephen Martin (fourth official).

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