City head to the midlands this weekend for a crucial match with West Brom.
Pep Guardiola’s side will be desperate for a win just three days after their narrow loss to Manchester United in the EFL Cup on Wednesday.
Club journalist Rob Pollard takes a look at a few talking points ahead of the game.
1Maffeo pushing for a start
The stars appear to be aligning for Pablo Maffeo.
With Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta both struggling with injury, the 19-year-old delivered a superb display in Wednesday’s EFL Cup game against Manchester United.
He brought pace to City’s right-hand side and didn’t once let his side down defensively. It was a pitch-perfect performance that saw him receive plenty of praise and has given Guardiola plenty to think about ahead of a packed fixture schedule.
Maffeo has been impressing at academy level for some time. He made his first start for City against Steaua Bucharest earlier in the season and Guardiola clearly rates him. Now could be the time to unleash him on a more regular basis.
For Blues fans, it’s been one of the most welcome sights of the season so far.
The return of Vincent Kompany has given everyone in the City squad a major boost. At his best, there’s no finer centre-half in the Premier League than the Belgian.
He played 78 minutes of City’s 1-1 draw with Southampton last weekend – and followed that up with 45 minutes against United on Wednesday.
However, he asked to come off at Old Trafford due to tiredness and Guardiola may feel it’s better to rest him ahead of Tuesday’s home game with Barcelona in the Champions League.
Kompany has battled muscle injuries for two years and Guardiola will be acutely aware his comeback needs to be managed carefully.
3A tale of two opposing managers
There is a stark difference between the approaches of Pep Guardiola and his West Brom counterpart Tony Pulis.
For Guardiola, football is all about possession and freedom of expression. He wants his side to dominate the ball (the opposition can’t hurt you if they don’t have it) – but he wants his players to take risks when they have it, to innovate and improvise in a bid to create chances. He often talks about his team playing with “personality,” and what we’ve seen so far at City suggests those ideas are already transmitting to his players.
Pulis, on the other hand, is a more pragmatic manager. He’s become an expert of getting the most out of a squad lacking world-class talent. He’s a master at organising, making life difficult for the opposition and developing set-piece techniques that are difficult to defend against. The opposition get bombarded aerially and have to cope with a physical and direct style of football. Teams hate playing against Pulis’ sides.
These are two excellent but distinctly different managers. It’s perhaps this clash of styles that makes Saturday’s fixture so fascinating.
4It’s tight at the top
City remain top of the Premier League table – but it couldn’t be closer.
One point separates the top five sides, with City just ahead of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham after nine games.
This season could be one of the tightest in Premier League history.
And after six games without a win in all competitions, City need a positive result at the Hawthorns.