Huddersfield Town vs. Manchester City
Champions Manchester City will continue their Premier League title charge on Sunday when they travel to the John Smith’s Stadium to take on managerless Huddersfield Town.
The Terriers are rooted to the bottom of the table following a dreadful run of form, whereas City have won every game so far in 2019 to move within four points of league leaders Liverpool.
Things are looking particularly bleak for Huddersfield right now, so the visit of the reigning English champions is exactly what they do not need.
The Terriers prop up the rest in the Premier League table after 22 games, having amassed just 11 points so far to leave themselves already eight points adrift of safety.
It is a position from which no team has ever avoided finishing bottom – yet alone managed to survive – so whoever takes the reins following David Wagner‘s departure will have an almighty challenge to turn things around.
Huddersfield are understood to have gone down the same route they used in order to appoint Wagner by making an approach for Borussia Dortmund coach Jan Siewert, while City assistant Mikel Arteta has also been linked with the role.
Wagner’s contribution will not be forgotten in a hurry, having taken Huddersfield into the Premier League and then kept them there against all the odds, but his reign ended with a dreadful run of form.
The Terriers have lost nine and won none of their last 10 outings across all competitions, and only picked up their first Premier League point since November in a goalless draw with Cardiff City last time out.
While that result was enough to end the rotten losing streak, it was not enough to save Wagner’s job and almost every match is a must-win one for Huddersfield now if they are to pull off a great escape.
That could prove tricky with their next four games coming against Man City, Everton, Chelsea and Arsenal, giving Wagner’s successor a daunting start to life in the dugout.
It is up to caretaker boss Mark Hudson to prepare the team for the visit of the champions, but his first match in charge could see Huddersfield fall to five successive home top-flight defeats for the first time in their history.
The Terriers have been better away from home than they have in front of their own fans so far this season, picking up a league-low five points and one win on their own turf and failing to win any of their last six.
Improving that home form will be high on the priority list for the next boss, then, and so will be boosting the goal return; Huddersfield have failed to find the back of the net in more than half of their 60 Premier League games since earning promotion and have only scored more than once on one occasion from the last 32.
It would take one of the shocks of the season for that to improve this weekend, and even accounting for the usual boost provided by a managerial change, it looks increasingly as though Huddersfield will be playing Championship football again next season.
Mark Hudson will select his first Huddersfield line-up since being named as caretaker head coach.
Captain Tommy Smith could return from a hamstring injury after being an unused substitute in the draw against Cardiff.
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany is a doubt with a muscle problem but manager Pep Guardiola has no other fresh injury problems.
Left-back Benjamin Mendy, who has had a knee injury since November, is nearing a return but is not yet ready.
Manchester City could find themselves seven points behind Liverpool by the time they kick off on Sunday, but all they can do right now is keep within touching distance of the league leaders.
The 2-1 win over Jurgen Klopp‘s side at the start of this month breathed new life into their title defence and also began a scintillating run of form which has seen City score 21 goals in their four outings so far in 2019.
The champions were ruthless in 7-0 and 9-0 wins over Rotherham United and Burton Albion respectively, and some Huddersfield fans may be fearful of a similar drubbing given that they look so certain to be joining those teams in the realms of the lower leagues sooner rather than later.
Worryingly for the Terriers, City’s record victory actually came in this fixture, and they hit Wagner’s side for six earlier in the campaign.
Pep Guardiola will be wary of allowing complacency to creep in following the blip around Christmas, though, and his side produced a thoroughly professional showing en route to a 3-0 triumph over 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday night.
Those three goals took City up to 99 across all competitions this season – comfortably more than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues – and 19 of those have come in their last three outings, one more than Huddersfield have managed in their last 36.
It is not just in attack that Man City boast an impressive record, though, with clean sheets in their last three games and a joint-league-low seven goals conceded away from home so far this season.
Sunday’s match will be their first away from home since the turn of the year, and Huddersfield may find a glimmer of hope in the fact that the champions only won one of their final four away games of 2018, not including penalty shootouts.
The expectation will be for Guardiola’s side to run riot once again, though, and doing so would shift the pressure back on to Liverpool going into the FA Cup fourth round break.
Sergio Aguero is fully fit once again and could return to the side for this one, despite Gabriel Jesus having scored seven goals in his last three games.
The Argentine has a superb record against Huddersfield with six goals in three previous meetings, although City are also unbeaten in the league when Jesus has scored.
There is strength in depth almost everywhere in the Man City team, and nowhere more so than in midfield where Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva could start together for the first time in the league this season.
Fabian Delph is pushing for a recall at left-back, and while Benjamin Mendy is nearing his return from injury, this weekend’s game will come too soon for him.
Hudson will be without injured trio Danny Williams, Aaron Mooy and Abdelhamid Sabiri for the first game of his temporary spell, but there are no new injury concerns for the Terriers.
Captain Tommy Smith could be in line to return from his hamstring injury, having been an unused sub in the final match of Wagner’s reign.
Huddersfield possible starting lineup:
Lossl; Smith, Zanka, Schindler, Durm; Puncheon, Hogg, Billing; Kachinga, Pritchard; Mounie
Man City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Delph; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, D Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane
Head To Head
Man City are unbeaten in their six meetings with Huddersfield since the turn of the century, winning three of those in a run which stretches back to 1999.
The reverse fixture in August saw Aguero help himself to a hat-trick as Man City ran out 6-1 winners, although they needed a late Raheem Sterling strike to pick up all three points in the corresponding fixture last term.
Huddersfield have not won at home to City since April 1988, less than a year after they fell to their heaviest ever defeat at the hands of the same opponents.