Manchester City host Sunderland at the Etihad on Boxing Day as the Citizens look to bounce back from their humbling defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates. The 2-1 loss meant that they are currently six points behind the league leaders and four behind the Gunners, who have usurped the 2013/14 Champions as the favourites for the title.
Where to Watch
Kick-off is set for 3pm GMT. Highlights of the game will be available on BBC Match of the Day at 10.30pm GMT on BBC One.
Manuel Pellegrini will be relieved after getting a bunch of players back from injury, including Vincent Kompany, without whom they have been shipping goals for fun this season. The Belgian has recovered from a calf strain and will take his rightful place at the centre of the City defence, replacing either Nicolas Otamendi or Eliaquim Mangala, both of whom have been extremely shoddy against Arsenal.
Up front, Sergio Aguero is back in action, having started at the Emirates, but his lack of sharpness has Pellegrini in a dilemma and he could consider giving Wilfried Bony a chance to prove his credentials. The Ivorian came on in the second half against the Gunners and has expressed his disappointment at not being given a first team slot despite being in good form coming into the game. David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne are others who will make an impact, having failed to provide the necessary impetus last weekend.
Sunderland had done well to get themselves out of the bottom three with back-to-back wins in November, but find themselves back in contention for relegation, having lost their last three games in the league. The match against City could not have come at a worse time for manager Sam Allardyce, who needs a run of results to get the morale back in the squad and get them closer to safety.
They have not been helped by the recent fixtures, with games against Arsenal and Chelsea among the ones they had to manoeuvre in recent weeks, losing both in the process. They had gone a goal down against Chelsea in the opening few minutes, which changed the complexion of the game, something Allardyce touched on in his post match press conference.
What Managers Say
Manuel Pellegrini: "The injury situation is better - we'll have the complete squad recovered apart from Samir Nasri. Pablo Zabaleta, Fernando and Vincent Kompany have all worked with the squad normally. You are always missing good players — he's the captain here and if he doesn't play it's an important player we don't have in our squad. One of the most important things of this team is to be in the all competitions, not just depending on one player. We'll see the starting line-up on Saturday. After that, especially with David (Silva), with Kun (Sergio Aguero), with Vincent, with Pablo — we have to see how they recover between games. I have not decided my team yet."
Sam Allardyce: "If you give Manchester City any encouragement, they can batter you. Simple as that. My fear at Chelsea with the way we started was that it could have been five or six if we didn't pull it together. There's a way you can lose a match, and a way you don't lose a match. If you do the latter, then that heaps even more pressure on you than you already have."
Betting Odds (888Sport)
- Manchester City Win: 2/9
- Draw: 25/4
- Sunderland Win: 14/1
Possible XI: Hart; Sagna, Otamendi, Kompany, Clichy; Fernandinho, Toure; De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling; Aguero