City aim­ing to ex­tend unbeaten run at Burn­ley

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MANCH­ESTER:

Manch­ester City head into their Premier League match against Burn­ley to­day boosted by hav­ing se­cured a place in the last 16 of the Cham­pi­ons League with a game to spare af­ter a mid­week draw at Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach. The 1-1 re­sult in Ger­many means man­ager Pep Guardi­ola and his City play­ers can fo­cus on the Premier League for the next month or so, be­gin­ning with a visit to Burn­ley. Guardi­ola’s side have been in­con­sis­tent while jug­gling Euro­pean and do­mes­tic de­mands, drop­ping points in each of their last three home league matches and fall­ing to third place in the ta­ble as a re­sult.

They were not en­tirely con­vinc­ing in Ger­many ei­ther, with a fail­ure to win mean­ing they are now cer­tain to fin­ish sec­ond in their Cham­pi­ons League group, which is likely to re­sult in a tougher draw in the next round. Even so, it is worth re­mem­ber­ing that Guardi­ola’s team are unbeaten in five matches in all com­pe­ti­tions-a run that in­cludes a mem­o­rable vic­tory over Barcelona. They have been beaten just once in the Premier League so far this sea­son and are, for all their re­cent dif­fi­cul­ties, just one point be­hind lead­ers Chelsea, who visit East­lands on De­cem­ber 3.

Guardi­ola’s play­ers stayed in Ger­many to train on Thurs­day be­fore fly­ing home. A short turn­around could cause prob­lems for City, who lost 10 on their last league visit to Turf Moor in March 2015. “It is tough to fly back and be pre­pared but men­tally we have got to be pre­pared,” winger Kevin De Bruyne said. “There will be al­most no train­ing for the game to­day but we will try to be there and have a good per­for­mance.”

‘Huge gulf’

Guardi­ola must con­sider what role, if any, Yaya Toure should play against Burn­ley. The mid­fielder made a sur­pris­ing re­turn to the start­ing line-up at Crys­tal Palace last week­end, and was the best player on the pitch, scor­ing both goals in a 2-1 win. Toure had not fea­tured for City since Au­gust, hav­ing fallen out with Guardi­ola af­ter be­ing left out of his Cham­pi­ons League squad. The dis­pute was ex­ac­er­bated when Dim­itri Seluk, the player’s agent, pub­licly crit­i­cized Guardi­ola, but Toure has been wel­comed back into the squad af­ter apol­o­giz­ing to his man­ager.

City captain Vin­cent Kom­pany, how­ever, has def­i­nitely been ruled out af­ter dam­ag­ing his knee lig­a­ments at Palace, the lat­est of sev­eral in­jury set­backs. Burn­ley, widely ex­pected to be fight­ing rel­e­ga­tion af­ter pro­mo­tion from the Cham­pi­onship in May, reached the heights of ninth place be­fore this month’s in­ter­na­tional break. How­ever, Mon­day’s 4-0 loss at West Bromwich Al­bion was a sober­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for man­ager Sean Dy­che and his play­ers. Dy­che does not re­ally have the depth of squad to make mul­ti­ple team changes and so is likely to give those play­ers who un­der­per­formed at The Hawthorns a chance to re­deem them­selves against City.

As a re­sult, Burn­ley striker An­dre Gray-who has started just once since com­plet­ing a fourgame sus­pen­sion in late Oc­to­ber-may have to set­tle for a place among the sub­sti­tutes again. Burn­ley have been much tougher to beat at home than away this sea­son, but Dy­che has ac­knowl­edged that his side face a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge this week­end. “There’s a huge gulf be­tween where we are as a club and where Manch­ester City are as a club, both on and off the pitch,” he said. “But it is the marvel of foot­ball, when ran­dom re­sults turn up. “We’ve had our fair share of them over my time here, and even this sea­son. So who knows on that side of things?” — AFP

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