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First team

Media View: Expert insight on Manchester City

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to pen a new chapter in their brief history in the Premier League when they host champions Manchester City at Vitality Stadium on Sunday (2pm kick-off).

Since winning promotion to the top flight in 2015, City are the only team Eddie Howe’s men have failed to take a point off in eight games.

Boss Howe was in the starting line-up when the Cherries last avoided defeat against City, the visitors having two players sent off late on in a 0-0 draw at Dean Court in February 1999.

Pep Guardiola’s team opened the 2019/20 campaign by lifting the Community Shield thanks to a penalty shootout triumph over Liverpool after the clash had ended 1-1 at Wembley.

A hat-trick from Raheem Sterling, coupled with a goal from Gabriel Jesus and a Sergio Aguero penalty, saw them start their defence of their Premier League title with a 5-0 win at West Ham earlier this month.

And although Sterling and Aguero were again on target against Tottenham last week, Mauricio Pochettino’s team earned a share of the points thanks to goals from Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.

Ahead of the game, afcb.co.uk caught up with Sam Lee, who covers the fortunes of Manchester City for The Athletic.

afcb.co.uk: How have City fared in their first two Premier League games?

SL: Ironically, they didn’t play that well in one half of the West Ham game but won 5-0 and played really well for pretty much all of the Tottenham game and ended up drawing.

Overall, the beauty with City is that you know what you’re going to get. All the players know their roles and they are all obviously quality players.

Pep Guardiola demands so much that they are going to perform to a high standard virtually every week and the only thing that can really affect the outcome is bad luck or mistakes on the day.

If they avoid either of those two things then City are going to win. That’s what we’ve seen for the past two seasons and we’ve seen it already in the first two games.

afcb.co.uk: Is Pep Guardiola prioritising any competition this season or does he just want to win everything?

SL: He wants to win everything but the fundamental priority is the league. His logic is that if you can win your league games, everything is calm and you can prepare better for everything else.

If you are solid and you always know what you’re going to get from the team then you can take that winning mentality into midweek games in the League Cup and Champions League.

He wants to win everything but the priority is the Premier League because that’s effectively the cornerstone to actually win everything else as well.

afcb.co.uk: Who is the pick of City’s summer signings?

SL: Rodrigo (pictured above) is an obvious one because we’ve seen the most of him. The other one is Joao Cancelo and a lot is expected of him and I think he can bring a lot to the team. I think he gives them a bit more tactical variation.

The kind of stuff that they’ve not been able to do with Benjamin Mendy because he has been injured, I think they will be able to do with Cancelo on the right-hand side because he is such an attacking threat.

They have struggled for a few years to find someone who could replace Fernandinho but I think Rodrigo could be the man.

There are still a few quirks in his game which need to improve but I think we saw the signs in the Community Shield against Liverpool and against Tottenham.

He’s always available to take a pass, he’s confident on the ball, very good defensively and good in the air.

That’s the full package for any footballer but particularly for City because they are quite a small team. They have struggled to find someone who can play that role but I think they have found that player in Rodrigo.

afcb.co.uk: As an opposing team, how do you stop City?

SL: You need a lot to go in your favour.

I think the best way is to be aggressive in midfield and to not give the defensive midfielder, whether it’s Rodrigo, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan or anybody else, any space.

You need to make it harder for that player to dictate the rhythm of the game and force mistakes around that area. If you can force them to give away the ball then you are in on the centre-backs straightaway. 

It looks like John Stones is going to injured anyway so Nicolas Otamendi is in the team. He’s generally good but can have a few bad games.

Aymeric Laporte is pretty solid as well but as we saw against Tottenham in the Champions League, he can have the odd mistake in him when he’s put under pressure.

If anyone asks me, I think it’s about trying to be aggressive through the middle of midfield and trying to force mistakes and get at City.

But the risk with that is they will just play through you and then there is space behind. That’s the difficulty in playing City, there is no silver bullet.

afcb.co.uk: Raheem Sterling (pictured above) has been getting all the headlines but which player has gone under the radar?

SL: Kevin De Bruyne is back and he showed, particularly in the second half against West Ham, that his radar was back on.

His crossing was fantastic in the first half against Tottenham but he didn’t really replicate that in the second half.

He can play pretty much anywhere and is so important for the team. After missing so many games last season through injury, it’s a huge boost to have him back because he is crucial for City.

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

SL: They have been fairly tight games between them at Vitality Stadium in the past couple of years but I think City will win 2-0.

You can follow Sam on Twitter – @Sam Lee

Match officials: Andre Marriner (referee), Scott Ledger (assistant), Simon Long (assistant), Simon Hooper (fourth official), Kevin Friend (VAR), Matthew Wilkes (assistant VAR).

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