After recording a stellar comeback win over Tottenham Hotspur in their previous Premier League 2022/23 fixture, Manchester City will be looking to have a more dominant evening in the park against Wolverhampton Wanderers when the two sides come face to face at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on Sunday evening.
While City will hope to cut down the deficit to Arsenal at the top of the table to just two points and hope that their city rivals Manchester United do them a favour tonight against Mikel Arteta’s side, Wolves are in the hunt for survival and are perilously close to the dreaded relegation zone.
Manchester City have been the most dominant force in England over the last five years and they have been nothing less than a juggernaut under the managerial leadership of Pep Guardiola. As such, the idea of them losing three consecutive matches seems almost unthinkable and unbelievable but that idea could’ve been a distinct possibility last weekend.
After losing to Southampton and getting knocked out of cup football action and squandering their lead in the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford, the reigning champions of England were staring into the abyss after conceding two late goals in the first half against Tottenham Hotspur.
A two-punch blow from Dejan Kulusevski and Emerson Royal inside three minutes saw them heading into the half-time break with a two-goal deficit to climb back from. A rousing Guardiola half-time team talk inspired a majestic fightback as City ended up showing exactly why they are champions in the first place.
The two young strikers Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland scored two goals inside two minutes to restore parity in the contest and cancel out any advantage that Spurs momentarily possessed. Riyad Mahrez put the final nail in the coffin of Antonio Conte’s side after netting a brace of goals that all but secured three crucial points for the Citizens and helped them stay within touching distance of Arsenal at the top.
However, the result alone was not deemed sufficient enough for their Spaniard manager who was scathing and critical in the assessment of his players and even the fans. Guardiola said that the players have lost the hunger and desire to succeed and win more and was left frustrated by their lack of “passion” and “fire”, and he believes City will drop more points if they fail to perform at the required level.
On the positive side of things though, Manchester City will play the next three of their four matches on their home turf and are expected to receive more fervent and passionate support from the fans. Wolves will be in the firing line on Sunday and their head-to-head record over the past five games also bears ominous news. Manchester City have been able to defeat Wolves in each of their last five matches and have scored 16 goals while only conceding three in the process.
City’s clash with Wolves is a favourable fixture on paper in the short term for Guardiola, with encounters against Arsenal and Spurs again on the horizon. Therefore, another victory on Sunday would help them in closing the gap on the Gunners to just two points before the league leaders lock horns with City’s neighbours Manchester United later in the night.
Danger is looming large on the Wolverhampton Wanderers’ chances of survival in the Premier League beyond this season. The usually resilient outfit has been uncannily sloppy this season and has lacked bite and ruthlessness. As a result, they are 17th in the league table with only their better goal difference separating them from the drop zone at the expense of Bournemouth.
Time is running out for Wolves to embark on a strong run of form and at this stage of the season, any mistake could prove to be fatal. They arrive into this battle against the defending league champions after securing a narrow 1-0 win over fellow Premier League struggling outfit West Ham United last weekend. However, that momentum didn’t last long as they suffered a loss by the same scoreline in front of their own supporters against Liverpool in their FA Cup third-round replay on Tuesday night.
In the post-match press conference, manager Julen Lopetegui stressed that his side deserved more for their efforts from that cup tie with Liverpool but Harvey Elliot’s first-half goal ended up eliminating the side from West Midlands at the first hurdle.
It could be a blessing in disguise for Wolves though as it will let them focus more clearly on the Premier League. While some fans would’ve loved a strong and deep cup run this season, the need to survive and ensure their safety in the English top flight precedes any such aspiration and ambition for Wolves.
Lopetegui’s side have been immensely ineffective in front of goal and Wolverhampton Wanderers possess the worst scoring record in the Premier League so far this season. After playing 19 matches, they have only been able to score 12 goals – five less than second worst West Ham United.
Even though the goals pipeline remains dry and impotent, Wolves seem to have turned a corner since appointing Loptegui as their manager last November. They have picked up seven points from a possible 12 in the Premier League since then and are undefeated in their last two games as well.
Although Wolves head into Sunday’s game as underdogs, they will be hoping to match their feat of October 2019 when they secured a 2-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium – the only win in their last 10 visits to Man City across all competitions.
MCI vs WOL, Premier League 2022/23
Date: 22nd January, 2023
Time: 7:30 PM IST
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Manchester City Premier League form:
Manchester City form (all competitions):
Wolverhampton Wanderers Premier League form:
Wolverhampton Wanderers form (all competitions):
Manchester City wins: 53
Wolverhampton Wanderers wins: 49
Manchester City Team News:
Manchester City don’t have a lot of injury concerns at the moment. Their only issue is regarding young right-back Rico Lewis. Lewis’ presence is doubtful for the clash on Sunday as he had to be taken off in the game against Spurs following discomfort. As a result, it won’t be surprising to see the 18-year-old be replaced by Kyle Walker in the first-team XI.
Ruben Dias and John Stones are the best center-backs in the City squad at the moment and both of them have returned to the desired fitness levels which were evident in their participation on Thursday. Both of them will be in contention to start at the back against Wolves on Sunday. Meanwhile, Nathan Ake will be expected to continue to deputise at left-back in place of Joao Cancelo.
Kevin De Bruyne, who missed training on Tuesday due to personal reasons, will likely return to the starting lineup after watching on as an unused substitute against Spurs, while Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Kalvin Phillips will also be pushing to start after beginning on the bench last time out.
Alvarez and Mahrez impressed in attack in the second half on Thursday and both could keep their places alongside Haaland, who has scored 15 of his 22 Premier League goals at the Etihad so far this season.
Wolverhampton Wanderers Team News:
As far as Wolves are concerned, former Chelsea striker Diego Costa ended up bouncing back from a knock to feature against Liverpool in the cup and the 34-year-old will be vying for a place in the frontline alongside the likes of Rahul Jimenez, Matheus Cunha, and Hwang Hee-chan.
However, Lopetegui will have to deal with his fair share of injury absences as Sasa Kaladzic is out after tearing his Anterior Cruciate Ligament, Pedro Neto has an ankle problem, Boubacar Traore has discomfort in his groin and Chiquinho has a knee injury. As a result, all of them are expected to be out of contention in the clash with the reigning champions.
Lopetegui is expected to revert to a similar side that beat West Ham last weekend, with Nelson Semedo, Max Kilman and Hugo Bueno all set to return in defence, while midfielder Matheus Nunes and attacker Daniel Podence could also be recalled to the first XI.
New recruits Mario Lemina and Pablo Sarabia, who both joined Wolves on permanent deals earlier this week, will be in contention to make their debut at the Etihad, while Goncalo Guedes has left the club to join Benfica on loan for the rest of the season.
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Ake; De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo; Mahrez, Haaland, Alvarez
Wolverhampton Wanderers possible starting lineup:
Sa; Semedo, Collins, Kilman, Bueno; Lemina, Neves, Nunes; Hwang, Cunha, Podence
While Manchester City have been a far cry from their best selves and haven’t been firing at top gear in the last few weeks, they are still an incredibly resilient outfit and their comeback win against Tottenham Hotspur was a major reminder of that fact.
Wolves will have to play out of their skins and punch considerably above their weight in order to have any hopes of stealing points away from Pep Guardiola’s side but the chances of that happening appear to be too low. The defending champions should have enough quality in their side to get the job done on home soil, especially against an underfiring Wolves side, and increasing the pressure on league leaders Arsenal.