Wolves vs Manchester City: Can Pep Guardiola's side close the gap on Liverpool? – Sky Sports

Watch Wolves vs Manchester City from 8pm on Monday live on Sky Sports Premier League; Kick-off 8.15pm
Tuesday 22 September 2020 00:29, UK
Manchester City begin their new Premier League campaign live on Monday Night Football when they travel to Wolves, aiming to close the 18-point gap that separated them from Liverpool last season.
After winning the Premier League for two successive seasons, City stumbled last year as Jurgen Klopp’s side raced away with the title.
With a team and staff of serial winners, Pep Guardiola will not want a repeat this season and Sky Sports pundit Micah Richards does not envisage the same situation this time around.
He said: “It was difficult [finishing behind Liverpool last season], no one likes to lose in the manner that they did. I think they lost nine league games as well which for Man City is unheard of.
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“I don’t think people should forget what they did the previous two seasons, we were all talking about which team would catch them and Liverpool have done that in great style. They’ve got some great players, but I don’t see Man City letting that gap go as big as last season.”
Ahead of Man City’s trip to Wolves, live on Sky Sports, the pundits gave their own pre-season assessment of what Man City need to compete and whether they can really challenge this season…
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Live on Sky: Wolves vs Man City
Analysis: How can Pep regain title?
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It is no secret Man City need to improve defensively, having failed to replace Vincent Kompany after his departure last summer and with Aymeric Laporte in and out of the squad due to injuries.
Leroy Sane and David Silva have also departed in recent months and Guardiola has already gone some way to addressing these issues, signing centre-back Nathan Ake from Bournemouth and winger Ferran Torres from Valencia.
Jamie Carragher said: “I think Ake is in as a squad player and what I mean by that is with Laporte being out last season, we talk about how it hurt City defensively. But I think Pep Guardiola may be of the other mindset that it disrupted them playing out from the back, he’s always wanted a left-footed player so I think he has brought Ake in to maybe cover at left-back but maybe when Laporte is out, he has still got that left-footer to bring the balance.
“They’ve also brought a winger in to replace Sane but I still think they need to go again. Centre-back wise, they are looking at Kalidou Koulibaly at Napoli and it’s a bit like Liverpool and Thiago Alcantara, they are players who have to come in and perform straight away, they are a player for the here and now. It is not something those teams usually do, they want to invest for the future and get longevity out of a player but there is a desperate need to improve at centre-back.
“Guardiola has brought in a lot of centre-backs while he has been there and it has never felt 100 per cent right at certain times so I think Laporte and one other, there is no doubt they will want someone to come in there, but it will be big money to get Koulibaly in.”
Gary Neville went further into some of the issues with City’s play last season, adding: “Man City’s reaction to giving the ball away was one of the best I have ever seen, similar to the Guardiola and Barcelona team. Last season, their mentality when they gave the ball away, they certainly were not stopping those counter-attacks so that defence was not only weaker, it was getting exposed more and they were getting run at more.
“Fernandinho coming out of that midfield is also a massive problem so for me, the mentality has to go back to a team that has wounded, who has lost the league and is not the best anymore. I think that could be the biggest change Guardiola could put in that dressing room, accepting the fact they do need another centre-back to have any chance of beating Liverpool for the title.”
Laporte will miss City’s opener against Wolves but Richards expects to soon seem him partnered by Ake.
He told Sky Sports: “I think it is difficult to play two left-sided centre-backs, it always looks awkward. The good thing about Ake is he can play left-back and he can step into midfield as well. I think he adds quality, but is he going to be the finished article for Man City? I am not quite sure. Technically for the team and the way they wants to play, it would be perfect but defensively, they have still got things to do.
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“But in terms of the best centre-back partnership, he is probably going to start with Ake and Laporte. I always like to see a right-footer at centre-half but I think I think he will start with those two.
“It is also the counter-attacks that they cannot seem to deal with in my opinion. When Fernandinho goes from defensive midfield back into central midfield, they lose a little bit of mobility. Rodri’s done a good job, but he’s not as mobile as Fernandinho, who mops up everything.”
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Another key player who has had his fair share of injuries is Sergio Aguero, who could be out for up to two months as he continues to struggle with a left knee injury sustained in June, but with Gabriel Jesus also in the ranks, should Man City be targeting another striker?
Richards said: “I think they should, just because of Aguero’s injury record over the last couple of seasons. He always seems to be injured when they need him most, but who can you get?
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“They’ve got a similar situation to Liverpool where if they go into the market, who is going to be happy to sit on the bench? If Aguero is fit, then he starts so it’s difficult to bring in striker.
“Jesus is not the same level as Aguero but every time he plays, his goal record is quite good. I would be looking at that position, though, it is just upsetting the rhythm of the team.”
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The big question – can Manchester City win the Premier League title over Liverpool this season?
Richards told Sky Sports: “I still think Man City are favourites, only because of the squad. If Liverpool keep everyone fit, you cannot go against them because all of the players are a good age, in good form and they have got world-class players in every single position.
“But why I stick with City is because of the strength and depth. If they can sort out the defensive issue and defensive midfield issue out, I think they will be back to their best.”
Man City will come up against a tricky prospect in Wolves on Monday Night Football, with Nuno Espirito Santo’s side beating them twice in the Premier League last season – they last won three consecutive top-flight meetings against City back in October 1961 (seven in a row).
They were 2-0 winners at the Etihad in October – Adama Traore scoring both goals – before a Christmas cracker at Molineux. Ederson was sent off inside 12 minutes after a foul on Diogo Jota, before a Raheem Sterling double put City 2-0 ahead. But three goals in just over half an hour sealed the victory for Wolves, with Traore also netting again.
Nuno’s side already have confidence-boosting wins under their belts against Sheffield United in the Premier League and Stoke in the Carabao Cup and head into the City tie in good form.
Should Wolves win again on Monday, manager Pep Guardiola will write another uneasy chapter into his personal record book, having never lost three consecutive league games against a single opponent in his entire managerial career.
Wolves vs Chelsea will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Premier League from 8pm on Monday; kick-off at 8.15pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.
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One hundred and forty-six Premier League games will be shown live on Sky Sports in the 2020/21 season, with an additional six matches added in September.
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