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City v Boro: Gundogan is key

MAN OF THE MOMENT: Ilkay Gundogan

MAN OF THE MOMENT: Ilkay Gundogan

City’s Premier League campaign continues this weekend as they welcome Middlesbrough to the Etihad Stadium.

Club journalist Rob Pollard takes a look at a few talking points ahead of the game. 

1City on a high

After the result and performance against Barcelona on Tuesday in the Champions League, Pep Guardiola’s players will be feeling confident ahead of the game with Middlesbrough.

It was City’s best Champions League performance to date, a display that showcased their brilliance with the ball and their sheer hard work without it.

Barcelona, arguably the finest side in world football, were outfought and outplayed.

Guardiola demonstrated his tactical flexibility, too, encouraging his side to be more direct when they had the ball in a bid to make their possession count, and the high pressing he advocates proved crucial, with Barcelona, who were unable to settle on the ball, being forced into errors in dangerous areas.

If that game is a sign of things to come under Guardiola’s leadership, the City fans can expect a wonderful ride over the next few years.


2Gundogan on fire

Ilkay Gundogan is the man of the moment, having scored four goals in his last two games.

He bagged two at West Brom last weekend and then did so again against Barcelona on Tuesday, underlining his ability to affect City’s play in the final third.

But, as he himself has pointed out, he has plenty more to his game.

He helps to control possession with the accuracy of his passing – and he works hard to recover possession when City lose it.

It’s easy to see why Guardiola made him a priority summer signing.

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3Stubborn Boro

Middlesbrough’s defensive record this season suggests City will need to be at their creative best if they are to get three points.

In their 10 Premier League matches so far, Karanka’s side have let in 11 goals. Their games have tended to be tight, tense affairs and it’s likely they will set up with men behind the ball in a bid to frustrate City.

That means City’s forward-thinking players will have to be at their best to break them down.

A repeat of the Everton game, which saw City fail to produce enough quality in the final third, must be avoided against a side who clearly know how to defend. 


4Negredo returns

Stopping former City striker Alvaro Negredo will be crucial.

At his best, the Spaniard is a very difficult proposition for defenders, with his mix of strength and technical quality making him an unpredictable force.

For much of his one season at City, he demonstrated his quality on a regular basis, scoring 23 goals in his first six months at the Etihad and terrorising defences in the process. He can play with his back to goal and bring others into play or play as an out-and-out striker.

So far, he has just one goal for Boro – but he should not be underestimated.

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5Tight at the top

This could end up being one of the tightest Premier League title races of recent years.

City are top of the pile at present – but just one point separates the top four.

Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham are all impressing this season and look capable of pushing City all the way.

Every game carries huge importance. 

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