Manchester City welcome Burnley to the Etihad Stadium knowing that only victory will ensure that they keep their place at the summit of the Premier League table past Saturday night.
With Chelsea and Liverpool tied with City on 20 points, there is a real pressure on Pep Guardiola’s men to deliver. Chelsea face off against Manchester United in the day’s early kick-off, whereas Liverpool travel East to take on relegation zone-occupying Huddersfield Town.
Liverpool were the first side to prevent the Cityzens scoring in the league this season in both sides’ last match but City also inflicted the same scorch on their Merseyside opponents. Therefore, although there is room for improvement in the final third, Man City’s defensive line is in fine form.
After a stunning performance against Spain for England on Monday night, Raheem Sterling will be key to unlocking Burnley’s rigid defence and with Riyad Mahrez blazing a last-minute penalty over the bar against Liverpool in the last game before the international break, City need to rediscover their clinical form in front of goal if they are to stay top of the table.
The winger ended a three-year international goal drought and is expected to maintain his place in the starting eleven amid rumours that Guardiola may opt to start both Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus in a 4-3-3 formation.
The visitors will presumably stick with their four-man defence so if Pep does choose to start both strikers, James Tarkowski and Ben Mee will have a hard task keeping them at bay.
However, with a crucial Champions League journey to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, the Cityzens could well have on eye on the midweek fixture; a loss could see them fall to the bottom of the group.
KEY BATTLE – RAHEEM STERLING vs CHARLIE TAYLOR
The England forward fired the ball beyond David De Gea twice on Monday night and having enjoyed the best scoring start in his Premier League career this season, Sterling will be key to success for Man City on Saturday afternoon.
Despite drawing against Huddersfield before the international break in a match where they were second-best, Burnley’s defence is usually resolute on the road against big teams and Charlie Taylor is a key reason why. The left-back has been a mainstay ever since arriving from Leeds United last season and he will have to be on top form to stop Sterling on Saturday.
Predicted City Line-Up: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Kompany, Mendy; Fernandinho, Bernardo Silva, David Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Jesus.
PREDICTED SCORE: Manchester City 2-0 Burnley