After consecutive defeats from Liverpool and Juventus, Manchester City will be hoping to bounce back when they welcome Southampton to Etihad Stadium this Saturday.
City’s stunning 4-1 loss at home to Liverpool last week saw them yield the lead in the title race, with manager Manuel Pellegrini admitting the performance had been the worst he had seen since his arrival at Etihad two-and-a-half years ago.
A chance to find redemption in the Champions League on Wednesday was then missed as City squandered some key goal scoring opportunities and suffered 1-0 loss against Juventus in freezing Turin. Consequently, they are no longer promised top position in Group D with one game to go ahead of next month’s draw for the last 16.
Wednesday’s loss against Juventus had an added sting as City lost their skipper Joe Hart as well at Turin after the goalkeeper confirmed that he felt ‘a little tightness’ in his right hamstring and boss Manuel Pellegrini is not ready to gamble on his fitness.
Pellegrini is already out-of-sorts with his six-star players injured for the game, including captain Vincent Kompany and Spanish playmaker David Silva. Superstar striker Aguero is still unfit for the match. Midfielder Samir Nasri is out long-term following a hamstring operation, while defenders Pablo Zabaleta and Eliaquim Mangala are also set to miss the Saturday fixture.
“As for Joe Hart – it is impossible to know how serious his injury is at this point. He has a problem with his hamstring and has had a problem in his back for the past week,” Pellegrini said. “We hope we don’t lose him, but for if for some reason he cannot play I have trust in Willy Caballero.
In the past decade, Southampton have never beaten City at Etihad in any competition, but Saints have the best defensive record in Premier League this season, having conceded just 4 goals in 6 Premier League away games. Koeman, however, will certainly miss his key players, Jay Rodriguez and Fraser Forster, who are both already rendered unfit for the match. Meanwhile, the Italian striker Graziano Pelle is serving a one-match suspension and will be replaced by Irish international Shane Long for City game.
The Saturday’s showdown is a crucial fixture for both sides as City look to bag three points to get back on title race while Southampton, standing at 8th rung on Premier League ladder, hope to break into top 6 with a victory at Etihad. Statistically speaking, City are favorites to clinch victory; however, Ronald Koeman’s stellar squad is expected to give tough time to Manchester City.