Premier League | Etihad Stadium | Sat 18 Jan | 3pm
Red tin hats at the ready.
Sergio Aguero is back, ladies and gentlemen – and the scary thing is that Manchester City have scarcely missed the free-scoring Argentine.
MAN CITY FORM
- Man City 5-0 Blackburn (FAC)
- Newcastle 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- Man City 6-0 West Ham (LC)
- Blackburn 1-1 Man City (FAC)
- Swansea 2-3 Man City (Prem)
- Cardiff 0-2 West Ham (Prem)
- Newcastle 1-2 Cardiff (FAC)
- Arsenal 2-0 Cardiff (Prem)
- Cardiff 2-2 S'land (Prem)
- Cardiff 0-3 So'ton (Prem)
Aguero returned in Wednesday night’s thumping 5-0 FA Cup win against Blackburn at the Etihad Stadium, and needed less than a minute to score City’s fourth of the night. Sure, he’s still nine league goals behind superhuman Luis Suarez, but before injury the 25-year-old had netted 22 goals in his previous 23 games for club and country.
In his place, though, Alvaro Negredo has proved a superb replacement. With the 28-year-old’s eight goals in the 10 games Aguero has missed, you could forgive Manuel Pellegrini for drumming his fingers together with glee at the devilish plan unfolding before him.
Arsenal still lead the way at the top admirably, but City are just a point behind. You can’t help but feel Pellegrini’s marauders (averaging 2.8 goals per game overall and 3.8 at home, for crying out loud), who are unbeaten in nine having won eight of those, will usurp the Gunners soon enough. It’s looking ominous.
On Saturday, then, struggling Cardiff will be like red rag to a bull (your fault, Vincent Tan). Lest we forget that the Welshmen stunned City earlier in the season with a dramatic 3-2 win on home soil – but this is a very different proposition.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tasted defeat at home to West Ham in his first league game at the Bluebirds’ helm, which plunged his side into the bottom three for the first time since the opening day.
The Welsh side have won just one of their last 11 league games, not to mention scoring only once in their last six away matches (and have won only once on their travels). With nasty-looking trips to Manchester United, arch rivals Swansea, Tottenham and Everton coming up, Solskjaer’s task is all uphill from here.
David Silva (knock) and Yaya Toure (back) should be fine to start after niggles, while Stevan Jovetic should make his long-awaited return having not featured in the league since October 19. Jack Rodwell (er, obviously) could also feature, but Samir Nasri (knee) is out until mid-March.
Jordon Mutch (hamstring) should be fit after missing the defeat to West Ham, alongside Andrew Taylor who has sat out the last three with a knock.
Player to watch: David Silva (Man City)
The brilliant Spaniard just keeps producing. Even in games where City are outpassed, like last weekend’s hard-fought win over Newcastle at St James’ Park, Silva continues to shine.
Against the Magpies he made the game’s second-highest number of passes (and the most in the attacking third), but unlike leader Cheick Tiote, spread his distribution all over the pitch.
Pellegrini, like every other sane coach before him, gives the 28-year-old freedom to drift all over the front-line and provide ammunition for the likes of Negredo and Aguero. It’s no surprise, therefore, to see him leading the charts for chances created per game this season (4.1). Indeed, he lived up to that last weekend by laying on 4 opportunities for his team-mates from the left.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Cardiff 3-2 City (Prem, Aug 13)
- Cardiff 1-0 City (FAC, Jan 94)
- City 2-2 Cardiff (Div 2, Mar 85)
- Cardiff 0-3 City (Div 2, Sep 84)
- City 2-1 Cardiff (Div 2, Mar 84)
Two newcomers to Premier League management with very different hopes for the season.
Pellegrini is challenging his team to aim for an unprecedented quadruple: “It's important to have the mentality at least,” said the Chilean. “It's very difficult, and that's why no one's done it before.”
Solskjaer, meanwhile, is under no illusions of his job ahead in South Wales. "We'll work at it,” said the Norweigan last weekend. “I know this is not going to be all singing and dancing, I expected it to be a tough job, but we'll look forward to going to Manchester City next weekend.” One question, Ole: are you really?
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- Man City have scored first in their last 10 home matches against bottom-six teams
- Cardiff have won 0 of their last 7 Premier League away games (W0 D2 L5).
- The Welsh side have failed to score in 5 of their last 6 Premier League away matches.
- Man City have not had both teams scoring in their last five home matches against bottom-six teams
- Solskjaer had only been manager of Molde for four days the last time Man City failed to score in a Premier League home game (Nov 13 2010).
- Man City have made more errors leading to a goal (9) than any other side this season.
More FFT Stats Zone facts • Find the best odds with Bet Butler
City have hit four or more goals in half of their home games this season. Bank on them doing it again. 4-0.