Sunday, 7pm, BBC One
If there was ever a manager completely addicted to the minute details of football, it’s Pep Guardiola.
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The success of his teams is almost totally dependent on how much his squad is willing to engage with his obsessive football brain – which may explain why City need replenishing while Liverpool don’t.
Thankfully for us, we don’t need to look at a picture that big to turn a profit.
For Guardiola and co, the burden of chasing a league title is now off their backs and they’re likely to revert to their sparkling best – particularly in the context of having no fan expectation or backlash to deal with it.
This is now a training environment for them, and that’s when Pep’s teams are most dangerous. Oh, and have we discussed the possibility that Kevin De Bruyne is approaching the title of best midfielder in the world?
That also helps.
What’s nicest about this clash is that Southampton are in a similar situation as City, if not quite at the right end of the table.
They play as though they have total faith in their manager too, and feel they’re never more than a eureka moment away from it finally clicking and being the best in their respective weight class.
It’s a rare case of offering a manager an extension in the Premier League and it working out – at least I’d project it to.
But does that mean they’ll take anything here?
No. If anything, it means they’re going to be far more open than they maybe should be.
I’d be quite confident in that price for the reasons outlined above, especially as City do genuinely need to maintain the tempo of their play going forward as they face a crucial FA Cup semi-final soon. There’s also no suggestion whatsoever that Pep is going to rest players, and even if he did, I’m not sure Phil Foden couldn’t just continue to run full pelt for 90 minutes anyway. What a talent he’s going to be.
With such fluid football on display and a wide pitch available to them, City will stretch Southampton. If anything, the St. Mary’s surface doesn’t suit the hosts, but there’s no point telling them that now.
And this is what City need to be consistent in front of goal. It’s these arenas where Kevin De Bruyne picks out those pockets and where his interplay with his forwards pay dividends.
But it would be remiss of me not to mention this chap, who has every chance to seal a move to a huge club off the back of his exploits this season, and, while Southampton’s best chances will come from set-pieces, with Ings barely five-foot-ten, there’s no better striker in the league at being in the right place at the right time.
He’ll add a goal to his already head-turning portfolio on Sunday.
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