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City v Burnley: Key battles

Manchester City return to Premier League action tomorrow when we play host to Burnley at the Etihad (kick-off 3pm).

Pep Guardiola’s side will be seeking to both record a sixth successive league win on home soil and to maintain top spot ahead of Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs.

Burnley, meanwhile, will be seeking to build on a run of form that has seen the Clarets win two and draw the other of their last three Premier League matches.

Here we examine some of the likely key match-ups ahead of Saturday’s encounter.

Sergio Aguero v Joe Hart

This could be subtitled the Irresistible Force against the Immovable Object.

Joe Hart will, of course, be afforded a rapturous reception on his return to Etihad after more than a decade of incredible service to City.

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Since his move to East Lancashire in early August, the 31-year-old goalkeeper has already made a big impact at Turf Moor with his experience and ability helping Burnley climb up the table after a tough start.

But the keeper will also know better than anyone that he could be in for a busy afternoon as he prepares to lock horns against his former team-mates – not least in trying to keep Sergio Aguero quiet.

Our club record goal-scorer has started the 2018/19 season in formidable fashion and already has five league goals to his name. Refreshed and eager to kick-on after the international break, Kun will no doubt be looking to add to his remarkable tally of goals.

Raheem Sterling v James Tarkowski

Raheem Sterling will go into the match with his confidence and belief further buoyed following a sensational display for England away at Spain in last Monday’s UEFA Nations League.

Having started the season in blistering form for City, Raheem replicated that impact on the international stage, scoring two superb goals to stun the Spaniards and round off a magnificent all-round performance from Gareth Southgate's side.

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Assuming he is fit and has recovered from the hamstring strain that forced him to withdraw from the latest England squad, Tarkowski is expected to be one of the key figures charged with seeking to nullify Raheem’s impact.

The 25-year-old has been in fine form for Burnley so far this season and allied to his ability at the heart of the Clarets defence, he also weighed in with two important goals from his eight league displays to date.

Benjamin Mendy v Aaron Lennon

French defender Benjamin Mendy demonstrated he was fully recovered from the metatarsal injury that had sidelined for a number of games with a commanding performance on his return to duty in our goalless draw at Liverpool last time out.

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Mendy is likely to find himself locking horns with former England winger Lennon who has made a highly impressive impact so far this season with the Clarets, demonstrating the type of form and consistency that earned him international honours during his days with Tottenham and Everton.

His pace and dangerous crossed from wide down the right flank have proved potent weapons so far for Sean Dyche’s side with Lennon also finding the target in Burnley’s 4-1 Premier League win over Bournemouth last month.

Fernandinho v Johann Berg Gudmundsson

Fernandinho has once again been a model of consistency at the heart of the City midfield this season, operating as a formidable shield in front of the Blues defence as well as seeking to get forward at every opportunity.

Though he may not feature in as many individual headlines as some of his colleagues, the Brazilian’s importance to the City team is more than appreciated inside the Blues dressing room – not least by manager Pep Guardiola.

However, Ferna will need to be at his alert best again tomorrow in looking to blunt Burnley’s efforts to play on the counter-attack.

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One of his main duties will be in seeking to nullify the influence of Icelandic midfielder Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who has emerged as one of Burnley’s key performers over the past few seasons.

Cool, calm and measured in possession, Gudmundsson has already registered four Premier League assists this season – the joint-best record in the league.

And City won’t need reminding that it was Gudmundsson found the target against us at Turf Moor in last season's 1-1 draw, so Fernandinho and his midfield colleagues will need to a careful eye on his forays forward. 

Aymeric Laporte v Sam Vokes 

French central defender Aymeric Laporte has been in imperious form for City so far this season, catching the eye with both his assured displays at the heart of the Blues’ defence and his quality on the ball thanks to his passing range and comfort in possession.

Given the fierce competition for places in the City squad, it speaks volumes for his displays that Laporte has started every league game so far and the 24-year-old could well be a key figure again tomorrow afternoon.

Should he be selected Laporte may well find himself in direct competition with Burnley central striker Sam Vokes who helps bring both power and panache to the Clarets' attack.

Physically imposing and a real threat in the air, the Welsh striker has already scored twice this season in consecutive games, including nodding home the winner in Burnley’s 2-1 win away at Cardiff last month.

Their personal duel could well be fascinating sub-plot tomorrow afternoon.

 




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