West Brom vs Manchester City | Monday 10 August | The Hawthorns | 21:00
Manchester City begin their title chase with a trip to the West Midlands on Monday night where they’ll take on West Bromwich Albion in what is usually a daunting fixture for the Baggies. City are unbeaten in their last ten meetings between the sides with nine wins including seven on the spin. However, West Brom are no pushovers, especially at home, and manager Tony Pulis will relish the challenge of putting a stop to City’s dominance.
To Win (90mins)
West Brom 42/10
Manchester City 6/10
West Brom will be optimistic after watching Manchester City suffer a 4-2 defeat to Stuttgart in their final pre-season friendly last weekend. The Baggies are strong at home and last season’s triumph of Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea shows they can mix it with the league’s best. The squad has a wealth of Premier League and international experience, with players such as Joleon Lescott, Darren Fletcher and Chris Brunt providing discipline and composure. This is balanced by a number of attacking options, with a lot of pace to call on in the form of James McClean, Callum McManaman and Saido Berahino. Last week West Brom completed the double signing of striker Rickie Lambert from Liverpool and defender James Chester from Hull, these being the second and third summer signings after McClean arrived from Wigan at the start of July. Chester will add strength to West Brom's backline. He reads the game tremendously well and at just 26-years-old he looks to have a bright future in the Premier League ahead of him. Lambert and McClean are the type of players that will fit perfectly into the Pulis’ style of play. While Lambert struggled last season, the more direct style of West Brom’s play should suit his aerial game well. He scored twice on his debut for the Baggies in a 4-0 friendly win against Bristol Rovers last Friday and the former Liverpool man will be hoping to carry that form into this match. Berahino’s pace, skill and aggression could trouble City’s defence especially with the weakness of Eliaquim Mangala. The 21-year-old scored twenty goals in all competitions last season and he’ll be looking to get on the scoresheet.
Manchester City will be hoping to return to their trophy winning ways after ending last season without silverware. Ultimately, many are surprised Manuel Pellegrini kept his job, and the pressure is on for him to rekindle the fire in his players' bellies. City have one of the most talented squads in Europe, let alone the Premier League. The lethargy on display last season was simply not good enough for a side of their ambitions and if they have hopes of winning the title this season then that will have to change. When on song, they are an irresistible side to watch going forward and are capable of dispatching any team with ease. You just never really know what side is going to turn up. The Citizens have won the last seven encounters against West Brom and will be eager to take three points back to the Etihad where they’ll face league champions Chelsea in their second game of the season.
The 4-3-3 formation has been out in force during pre-season and it seems as though that's the shape City will carry into the first game against West Brom. Yaya Toure and David Silva have hit the ground running and already look ready to do serious damage. Silva remains City's most creative player, a fact underlined last season and again in pre-season. No-one in blue can match his ability to create chances. Silva can inflict the most damage with his ability to float into dangerous areas and pick passes with his wonderful technique and vision. The Spaniard’s flourishing partnership and understanding with Raheem Sterling is capable of tormenting defences. Sterling’s lightning pace on the wings coupled with some great crossing and goalscoring form will be huge concern for West Brom. The exit of Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko’s pending transfer to Roma means City could be down to just two senior out-and-out strikers in Wilfried Bony and Sergio Aguero. Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis and Fernandinho are all expected to sit this one out having only joined up with the team on Monday, while new signing Fabian Delph is also unavailable due to a hamstring strain. Pellegrini has a delicate juggling operation to conduct and with Bony having just 45 minutes of pre-season action, he could call upon 18-year-old Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho.
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VERDICT: Draw 29/10
City’s backline will have an air of vulnerability about it while going forward they look slim. The Baggies are tough to beat at home and will look to capitalise on City’s understrength team. It should be a tight affair and the draw looks a likely outcome at 29/10.