Preview: Manchester City v Watford

Pep Guardiola

Manchester City will be looking to bounce back from last week’s setback at Crystal Palace when they host Watford in the Premier League on Tuesday.

Premier League
2 January 2018
Gameweek 22
Kick-off 19:45 BST
Venue: Etihad Stadium

Referee: L. Mason
Assistants: H. Lennard, M. Wilkes
Fourth official: M. Dean

Head-to-head summary

Man City 17 10 3 4
Watford 17 4 3 10

Previous encounter

Watford 0-6 Manchester City 16/09/17 (Premier League)

Man City goal-scorers: Aguero (27′, 31′, 81′), Jesus (37′), Otamendi (63′), Sterling (89′ Pen)

Players to watch

With Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne injured, Sergio Aguero will be City’s main focal point up front and the Argentine should relish the occasion, having scored five goals in his last two matches against the Hornets. However, with the likes of Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane also firing on all cylinders, Watford can ill afford to focus too much on one single attacking threat.

Having conceded 11 goals in their last two outings against City, Watford know what they are capable of and are going to have to work their socks off to keep the Citizens at bay. In this respect, Tom Cleverly’s energetic work-rate and pressing in the middle of the park and his success in keeping the dangerous City attack quiet could prove critical for the visitors.

Team form and manager quotes

Pep Guardiola’s side failed to extend their 18-match winning run in the league when they were held 0-0 at Crystal Palace on Sunday. Even though they remain a massive 14 points above second-placed Chelsea, Guardiola will be expecting his players to bounce back quickly and it could be a very difficult day for Watford.

Guardiola was not overly upset at dropping the two points in south London, but has called upon match officials to be stricter on foul play.

“Please, referees, they have to protect players,” he said. “We were lucky against Tottenham and against Newcastle.

“Referees have to protect. We know how strong physically it is England but teams miss big players, not just Manchester City. The replay speaks for itself. We have to protect players.”

The Hornets are in 10th position but have lost four of their last five matches and are not that far above the drop zone – just seven points. Conceding a late winner at home to struggling Swansea would have irked manager Marco Silva, who like Guardiola will also be demanding a positive response from his troops.

Silva, whose team have dropped more points from winning positions than any other club in the league, has spoken of the importance of burying chances up front while remaining focused at the back.

“We had enough chances to kill the match. We controlled the match until that moment,” he said. “At this level, when you have clear chances to score, seconds before they equalised too, it gives belief to the opponents [if you miss].

“It gave more belief to our opponents. They didn’t create chances to score but one cross, and one second ball and they scored one goal.

“We conceded a goal from a set-piece which is a big mistake for our team. We didn’t stay in the right positions and how we had prepared. At this level, if you don’t keep focused until the end this can happen.”

Team news

Jesus is definitely out and De Bruyne is also likely to miss the match for City after they were injured in the draw with Palace.

Vincent Kompany, Fabian Delph and John Stones could possibly make returns from injury, while Benjamin Mendy remains sidelined. David Silva has missed the last two games for unspecified personal reasons and is not likely to play on Tuesday.

Watford captain Troy Deeney serves the last of a four-match suspension, while Kiko Femenia, Will Hughes, Younes Kaboul, Miguel Britos, Craig Cathcart, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success remain unavailable with injuries.