Another clash that will have implications at both ends of the table, Manchester City and Sunderland meet at the Etihad for the first of their 2 games in hand.
Manchester City saw a huge dent into their title aspirations at the weekend with the defeat at Anfield now meaning it is out of the hands of City as they trail the Merseyside club by 7 points. Having played two fewer matches than Liverpool and Chelsea – who are 5 points ahead of 3rd place – the possibility of being a point adrift is there, but the need to win their remaining 8 matches is a pivotal one. Their form shows that it could be possible with 5 wins in 7 games and the return of Aguero, who will hope he won’t see the Manchester City physio-room again this season, will be a welcome boost.
The outcome on this season for Sunderland is getting bleaker and bleaker by each passing week. 7 points separates them with 17th place and Saturday’s 0-1 defeat to Everton was their 5th consecutive loss with the form table now showing 8 defeats out of 9 matches in all competitions. With Gus Poyet sounding less confident of survival in every press conference, the possibility of Sunderland fading away and accepting relegation is a likely one.
Often the magician behind the high quality goals scored by Manchester City, Silva scored one of his own against Liverpool and nearly inspired the team to successful comeback. Constantly running at his opponents and creating space for others allowed City back into the game, he filled Anfield with fear and barring the smallest margins could have won the game.
The maker of the most successful passes in the final third for Manchester City (641), he is a constant thorn to any defence in the league. Creating 81 chances and assisting 9 goals – both the most for the club – against a Sunderland defence who are full of mistakes.
Many teams have gone to the Etihad this season and struggled against their attacking line-up; the experience of John O’Shea will be important to hold off the barrage of attacks upon the Sunderland goal.
Making the most clearances for Sunderland – 105 headed and 147 in total – dealing with the crosses into the box should be manageable for the former Manchester United defender. His position and abilty to read the game has provoked 16 offsides this season, with the higher tempo and integrate play that runs through the majority of City’s ventures into the box O’Shea will be needed to prevent this once again.
After limping off at the weekend, Yaya Toure is set to miss out as well as is Nastasic who has a knee injury.
Sunderland could welcome back Altidore, but Steven Fletcher and Kieran Westwood are out for the foreseeable future.
Manchester City to quickly get back on track and inflict further pain on a Sunderland side furtively struggling against the threat of relegation.
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