Foxes up next...
After another hard-fought win over Bournemouth, City take on Leicester at the Etihad this Sunday in what will be our third game in six days.
Keeping as many of his senior players fit will be Pep Guardiola's biggest challenge in these opening weeks with the boss revealing we have just 13 players fit going into this weekend.
The demands on players this season will be unprecedented, but these are the times we live in. It's at moments like this when a full and noisy Etihad are just what the team needs, especially in close matches when we just need to get over the line.
It's unlikely anyone ever will - or would want to - get used to playing behind closed doors, but that's where football and most other activities that involve large crowds, currently is.
At least football has found a way and this odd situation won't last forever. In the meantime, we will try and get you as near to matchdays as possible, so if our digital matchday programme goes some way to doing that, it is time well spent at our end.
In this edition, we have Pep's pre-match thoughts and Buzzer's overview of our win over Bournemouth.
Gareth Barry shares a very poignant Dream City XI and we take a close look at Leicester City and their main threat, Jamie Vardy.
There is also Marc Riley's regular column and we go behind the scenes with Kev Cummins on his photoshoot with Blossoms.
Many thousands of you are enjoying the digital programme and hopefully, you'll enjoy this one, too.
The boss speaks ahead of Sunday's game...
We are back at the Etihad this afternoon, just three days after our last game. We have done our best to rest and recover and I am confident we can produce a good performance today.
Our win on Wednesday against Bournemouth was very satisfying for everyone at the Club. For so many of our young players to come into the side and perform the way they did was fantastic. They showed quality and desire, and everyone at Manchester City should be proud of the Academy system we have in place.
The attitude of all my players since we returned from the short summer break has been exceptional. Coming back so soon after the Champions League tournament in Portugal isn’t ideal, but, so far, I couldn’t have asked for more. Every training session has been high-quality, we were very good against Wolves on Monday evening and in the Carabao Cup game. It’s been a great start, but there is a long way to go.
I am so lucky to work with such an amazing group of players and staff and I am excited about what we can achieve this season.
Today we face Leicester, one of the best teams in the Premier League. They showed last season how good they are, and the job Brendan Rodgers has done has been outstanding. They have quality in every position and play really, really good football.
We know they are a top side, and we know where they can cause us problems. We have had meetings this week to discuss the dangers, and everyone is clear on what we have to do. We are focused on our objective, which is to play good football and win the game.
It’s these kinds of matches as a manager you look forward to the most. It should be a great game.
Finally, I want to repeat what I said ahead of the game against Bournemouth. We miss having our fans here with us. It’s not the same inside this great stadium without you guys. But we must stay safe and be sensible right now. Hopefully it will not be long before we see you all here again.
Enjoy the game.
Our club ambassador's weekly column...
I went to the game against Bournemouth on Thursday evening and I thought the young lads did very well. They blended in well with some of the more experienced players, but Bournemouth played really well, too and put out a strong side, so it wasn’t easy.
Liam Delap scored a lovely goal and he’s very much in the mould of an old-fashioned centre-forward – big strong and direct and at 17, he will only get better. I thought Phil Foden was superb as well and overall, they all did well and it bodes well for the future of this football club that we have so much talent coming through from the Academy.
Introducing them, bit by bit to first team training is working perfectly and they are learning all the time. They are discovering what is expected of them and how Pep wants them to play and the future looks rosy.
Next up we face Leicester City, who have made an impressive start to the season. It also looks likely we’ll go into the game with a number of players missing through injury. It’s not an easy situation but the players haven’t had a pre-season as such and it’s just not enough. There will be muscle pulls, tears and stiffness – things that come along when you’ve not had enough rest, but we’ve just got to get on with it.
When a player is missing, we usually have someone who can come in and do a good job, whether they are experienced or a youngster. An opportunity to play a top team in the Premier League is a great carrot for any Academy graduates coming through and they have to grasp it with both hands.
It will be a hard game on Sunday, but I’ve got every faith that whoever plays for us will do a great job.
Next week, we take on Burnley in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup and that’s going to be another stern test. I’m a great admirer of Sean Dyche and what he has achieved at Turf Moor with a limited budget.
I’m sure we’ll put out a side with several younger players included again, but these are the games they need to play in and learn from. Burnley will be organised and aggressive on their own soil, but we will see. We’ve not only got the best coach in the country; we’ve got the best coach in the world in my eyes. Our promising youngsters couldn’t be in better hands.
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Leicester City arrive at the Etihad Stadium as the Premier League leaders, albeit with two games played.
A 3-0 opening day win at West Brom, followed by a 4-2 victory over Burnley at the King Power Stadium was the perfect start for Brendan Rodgers’ side, with only a 2-0 reverse at home to Arsenal in the Carabao Cup a slight blemish on their record.
Ben Chilwell has so far been the only high profile departure from the Foxes, while Rodgers purchased Timothy Castagne from Atalanta and has brought in right-winger Cengiz Under on loan from Roma for the season.
For much of the last campaign, the Foxes looked certain to qualify for the Champions League, but key injuries at crucial time and a loss of form saw them slip out of the top four and finish fifth. Europa League football was secured and Rodgers will fancy he can guide his team to a good run in the competition this campaign.
As for the domestic season, Leicester will again aim for a top four finish. Their squad is certainly capable of delivering that target.
Calgar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans give the Foxes a solid central defensive base, while Wilfred Ndidi is a vital part of the midfield – he had been filling in the back four but has now been ruled out with injury for up to 12 weeks.
Belgian playmaker Youri Tielemans and James Maddison represent the Foxes’ main creative talents, while Harvey Barnes, Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy have the capability of tormenting any Premier League defence.
It’s fair to say that Leicester City will fancy their chances at the Etihad on Sunday given City’s lengthy injury list. They certainly have the players to cause Pep Guardiola’s defence problems and they are likely to try and soak up pressure from the hosts and counter attack with pace when the chances arrive.
Said Rodgers ahead of the game: “These are the types of games that we can show our quality. They are a top level side. For us, it’s the excitement of the challenge - they’re one of the top teams in Europe.
“It’s another good measure for us. We’ll play our game against a top class opponent. These types of games are always great challenges, and that’s what you want.”
It should be a fascinating contest.
City v Leicester: Fixture history
City and Leicester have been playing each other for 125 years.
In total, there have been 120 meetings between the two clubs, starting with a 3-1 win for Leicester Fosse in 1895. From there, it would be 13 years until City were again beaten in this fixture, with 12 games passing without defeat for the Manchester Blues.
In fact, the Foxes won just three of the first 19 meetings, stretching all the way to 1926.
Leicester’s best run came between 1928 and 1931 when they won six out of seven meetings – but it was very much a case of ‘enjoy it while it lasts’ as City went on an unbeaten run of 16 games against the Foxes, stretching from 1932 to 1957.
Leicester ended that run in style, with a crazy 8-4 victory at Filbert Street in 1958.
The next notable run of games was a remarkable 17-month period when City were enjoying perhaps our best ever period (at that stage). Joe Mercer’s talented side found Leicester something of a bogey side, losing five of the eight meetings between the two clubs in three competitions. between 1967 and 1968.
But, of course, City memorably won the 1969 FA Cup final against the Foxes, courtesy of Neil Young’s thumping drive at Wembley – that result was one of nine games City remained unbeaten in until 1974.
Between 1976 and 1985, City again failed to lose any of eight fixtures, though six ended in draws!
A mixture of results shared between the sides ensued thereafter, but a Paul Dickov-inspired Foxes enjoyed one of their biggest wins away to City in 2004, beating Kevin Keegan’s men 3-0.
Since then, City have lost just three of the past 20 meetings, including eight of the last nine matches. Among those losses was the 2016 clash at the Etihad, with Riyad Mahrez inspiring a 3-1 win as Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes went on to a famous Premier League title.
City have twice knocked Leicester out of the Carabao Cup quarter-finals on penalties in recent years and who could forget the penultimate game of the 2018/19 season – the ‘No, Vinnie, no!” clash that City won 1-0 courtesy of Vincent Kompany’s spectacular winner?
Overall, City have won 61 meetings to Leicester’s 30 with 29 games drawn.
Dangerman: Jamie Vardy
It’s not hard to single out Leicester City’s main attacking threat.
Jamie Vardy has been scoring goals regularly for the Foxes since joining them from Fleetwood Town in 2012..Signed for a fee in the region of £1m, he is arguably the best signing the Foxes have ever made and with 312 appearances and 132 goals during his time with the club, he is rightly regarded as a Leicester City legend with his 26 England caps scant reward for his exploits in English football.
He started out life with Stocksbridge Park Steels in the Northern Premier League having been released by Sheffield Wednesday, before moving to Halifax Town and then Fleetwood Town. It’s fair to say that he had to find his way to the top the hard way and he was 26 when he joined the Foxes and played league football for the first time.
He’s been making up for lost time ever since.
Watching Vardy play, it’s hard to believe that he will be 34 years-old in just four months. He is still one of the fastest strikers in the Premier League with no signs of slowing down.
Perhaps the most impressive statistic of his career is his goal-scoring record against the top clubs.
In sequential order, Vardy has scored 10 goals in 10 games against Arsenal, seven in 11 starts against Liverpool, six in 11 games against City, six in 10 against Everton, five in 10 against Spurs and five in 11 against Manchester United.
Add 14 assists in those matches and you have 39 goals in 63 games and a direct involvement (scoring or assist) of 53 in 63 matches against six of the biggest and most successful sides in England with perhaps only Chelsea (four goals in 13) absent from an impressive list.
Despite his habit of goals against City, he has only been on the winning side on three occasions out of 11 games.
Leicester City have many excellent attacking options and represent a significant challenge for Pep Guardiola’s injury-hit side this Sunday, but the fact remains that if City can keep Vardy quiet, the chances of winning will be greatly increased.
City have Sergio Aguero; Leicester have Jamie Vardy - and both deservedly are regarded as Premier League legends.
Gareth Barry made 175 appearances for City between 2009 and 2013. The former Aston Villa midfielder was part of an historic squad that ended City’s long wait for silverware by wining the FA Cup in 2011 and then the Premier League in 2012.
A popular and dependable player, Gareth retired from playing in the summer after making a record 832 career appearances.
But, who gets in his dream City XI?
Take it away, Gareth…
“When I was asked to select my all-time favourite City side, it took me just a few moments to decide.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play with some fantastic players in my career and I’ve lots of good memories – but nothing tops the day I won the title with City.
“That team – the class of 2011/12 – gelled perfectly on and off the pitch. We shared a common vision, and that was to follow up the FA Cup triumph the previous season with the Premier League title.
“We never stopped believing – even when we fell eight points behind United with six games to go – and we fought until the very last minute of that unforgettable season.
“So, my Dream City XI is the 17 players who played or were on the bench against QPR back in May 2012. That means I get a game, of course, but every one of those lads is worthy a place in Manchester City’s history.”