The international break is over! City return to Barclays Premier League action on Saturday afternoon with the visit of newly promoted Bournemouth to the Etihad Stadium.
Where will the game be won and lost? Here are five things to look out for…
Injury problems overstated…
Ignore the revisionism which has taken place… not many pundits were tipping City for the title before the season started (see!).
However, the few that were cited our strength in depth as the reason we would finish the season on top of the table.
With the injury problems we’re facing, this is the time when that theory is put to the test.
While the Chilean would always prefer to have Sergio Aguero and David Silva at his disposal, he has trust in the whole squad to perform and would never use absentees as an excuse for any failures to pick up maximum points.
The Kolarov question…
That said, there’s no doubt it was a costly international break for City as three key players returned from duty with injuries.
Aguero and Silva are both expected to miss the game against Bournemouth with a hamstring and ankle injury respectively, while Aleksandar Kolarov is another question mark after he limped off against Portugal.
With Gael Clichy still sidelined, Kolarov’s issue could see one of the right-backs having to shunt over to play on the left.
Pablo Zabaleta played there on a handful of occasions early on in his City career so would seem the likely candidate if Kolarov doesn’t make it.
We should see a clearer picture after the manager’s press conference at 12:45pm on Friday afternoon.
A meteoric rise…
16 years have passed since City last met Bournemouth in any competition – in fact, their manager Eddie Howe was 22-years old and in the Cherries side on that day back in 1999.
That clash was in the old Division Two and the teams have never faced off in a top flight match before, offering us a good chance to examine the progress made by both clubs in the intervening years.
Bournemouth have had to be patient for their opportunity to rub shoulders with the nation’s elite but they’ve achieved the feat thanks, in no small part, to a talented young manager who has brought together a dedicated group of players all pulling in the same direction.
Howe extended his contract at the Vitality Stadium this week as reward for the meteoric rise he has overseen, from being cut adrift in the League One relegation zone in 2009 to the Premier League just six years later.
It’s not far off modern footballing miracle status and if Howe can keep the Cherries in the division this season, there will be a new chapter added on to this feel good story.
Collectively, Bournemouth have run further than any other side in the Premier League this season and not just by a small margin.
The Cherries have covered 944km between them in the first eight games of the season which is 18km more than anyone else.
City tend to make the ball do the work but they will have to match the commitment and the perspiration of the visitors on Saturday or they could find themselves in a spot of bother.
Home sweet home…
If you’re looking for some stats to pin your pre-match optimism on, these should do the trick…
We have failed to score in just one of our last 24 league matches, netting at least two in ten of our last 11 home matches in the league, winning ten of those 11.
Bournemouth have conceded at least two goals in their last three away matches and have won just one of their away clashes so far this campaign.
City continue their Champions League campaign against last season’s Europa League winners Sevilla on Wed 21 Oct at 7.45pm. Make sure you’re there to support the team. Buy your tickets now Adults from £25 and U16s £5.
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Show your support for City U19s who also face Sevilla, on the same day as the first team, in the UEFA Youth League. Kick-off is 5pm at the Academy Stadium. Tickets available now; Cityzens can redeem a free match ticket for this fixture now and non-Cityzens can purchase tickets.