Manchester City face-off against Sunderland with both the clubs being led by managers into a new era who are working overtime to ensure the team is ready to achieve their targets this season. Both the clubs will have contrasting objectives this season with City hoping Guardiola transforms them into a world-class unit and win the league while David Moyes will look to take the club as far away from the relegation spots as he can. Sunderland were considered to be City’s bogey team till the recently and the Everton team managed by Moyes always proved too difficult to be beaten by City.
The Black Cats will hope the two factors somehow conspire together as it looks like the only chance for Sunderland to take something away from the Etihad. It will be fascinating to watch how Guardiola lines up his City team in the first match . Moyes will have to decide on whether to surprise City by throwing in the new signings from the beginning or be more restrained in his approach.
Manchester City will be without Kompany as he recovers from his injury while Otamendi faces a late fitness test. Gundogan is a long-term absentee while Sane has been ruled out for this week. Mangala is unlikely to feature after not getting minutes in the pre-season and Nasri and Bony look to have their future elsewhere. New signing Stones is set to feature due to lack of options.
The Scot will definitely be without Seb Larsson, who is facing up to six months on the sidelines following knee ligament surgery, while fellow midfielders Lee Cattermole (groin) and Jan Kirchhoff (hamstring) and full-back Billy Jones (hip) are also out. The new signings Love, McNair and Januzaj are with the travelling part and will hope to get minutes.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3)
Hart – Zabaleta, Otamendi, Stones, Clichy – Fernandinho, Toure, Delph- Silva, Nolito, Aguero
Mannone- McNair, Kaboul, Djilobodji, Van Aanholt – Rodwell, John O’shea – Lens, Khazri, Borini – Defoe
PLAYERS TO WATCH
SERGIO AGUERO- The Argentine will be crucial to City’s fortunes this season. While most of the tiki-taka and build-up play will be behind him, the striker has to be on his toes to put the chances away and also to conjure something in tight spaces. If fit throughout the season, the title will be City’s to lose.
JERMAINE DEFOE- The striker has been passed fit to play and will look to put early dent into City’s nervy defence. His pace and ability to run in behind will be crucial as the backline of the Blues still look susceptible when attacked. Defoe has to be on his game if Sunderland are to take something away from the Etihad.
Though on paper it would seem a mismatch, City at the moment are an unsettled unit and need time to conform to the Pep way of high-octane football. Having said that Sunderland seem to lack an x-factor capable of turning things around. The beautiful football of Pep might need more time before it can be showcased and City will probably need to grind out a result against Moyes’ boys.