Manchester City gear up for busy Christmas period

Pep Guardiola is expected to make changes ahead of Manchester City’s Premier League clash against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon as the reigning champions enter their Christmas period which includes nine games in December alone.

Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva all face a race against time to be declared fit and will undergo a late fitness test while Kevin de Bruyne remains on the sidelines with a knee injury he picked up in early November, with Manchester City’s match against Bournemouth coming too soon for the Belgian.

“I don’t know, we have training in a few hours and we will assess and see how they are,” said Guardiola during his Friday press conference. “I think he [De Bruyne] is not ready, but soon he will be. Gabriel [Jesus’] doctor says he is much better. Of course, he will play a lot of games.”

The 21-year-old Brazilian has become a key member of Pep Guardiola’s squad despite being an understudy to Sergio Aguero, who scored an important late equaliser against Olympique Lyon in their Champions League group on Tuesday.

As well as Kevin de Bruyne, both Benjamin Mendy and Claudio Bravo remain sidelined which could see Ukrainian Oleksandr Zinchenko start at left-back, just as he did midweek. Both Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane are expected to complement Sergio Aguero in attack while the trio could run riot against a Bournemouth squad that have been on the end of three successive defeats.

However, even with consecutive 4-0 wins against Bournemouth, Pep Guardiola is wary of the threat Eddie Howe’s side pose and has warned his players not to get complacent.

“I don’t care about the record, especially in the past,” Guardiola told reporters. “The good results we had at Etihad does now allow us to start 3-0 up. It’s a new game and we need to win. Bournemouth are a stable and good team. They get what they need and the results against the big teams – they are so fast up front with [Callum] Wilson and [Ryan] Fraser. They are organised and can play five or four at the back. It will be a tough game.”

While Sergio Aguero vs Nathan Ake and Leroy Sane vs Simon Francis may prove interesting battle on the pitch, it’s perhaps the tactical similarities between Pep Guardiola and Eddie Howe that makes this fixture interesting.

Both coaches are adamant that football must be attacking. Both Pep Guardiola and Eddie Howe value the aesthetics of the game – which is probably why we saw Howe linked with Arsenal prior to Arsene Wenger’s departure – with both coaches wanting their players to move the ball quickly, in a meaningful fashion.

While it’s unlikely that Howe will be able to mastermind a victory against a Manchester City team that are unbeaten and have scored 40 goals in their opening 13 Premier League fixtures, Howe has caused many tactical headaches for the best coaches in football. It’s also why Bournemouth are sitting just one point against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United with Europa League football a real possibility for Bournemouth.

And so, Pep Guardiola is wary of the threat that Bournemouth pose. They’ve almost come away with three points against Arsenal and Manchester United and with Jefferson Lerma the only meaningful absentee, Bournemouth could well cause Guardiola’s City’s problems if their performance midweek against Lyon is anything to go by. Perhaps Lyon’s Bruno Génésio has given coaches some hope of coming away from a game against Manchester City with something.

While Manchester City have won the six previous Premier League encounters, scoring 21 times and conceding just two, this is the best squad Bournemouth have had. It’s one that can cause the best of teams several headaches but ultimately, we shouldn’t be seeing anything other than a Manchester City win. Add to that the fact Bournemouth have never beaten Manchester City (D2, L10) and that John Stones & Co. have conceded just one Premier League goal from open play this season, dating back to December 1.

Unbeaten in their last 19 league games, Manchester City have conceded just eight goals while they are unbeaten in their last 35 – winning 31 – Premier League games that have kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday.

It’s probably too much to ask for Bournemouth to come away with three points, but Manchester City vs Bournemouth should provide fans with a chess-like match with Pep Guardiola and Eddie Howe sharing the same tactical philosophies.

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