Pep Guardiola will be looking to guide Manchester City back to winning ways in the Premier League against Brentford this evening and extend their lead at the top of the table to 12 points.
City ended their long winning run with a tight draw at Southampton last time out, with a winter break and FA Cup weekend meaning it is 18 days since their last league fixture. Brentford are the visitors, who will pose a tough test after City were 1-0 winners against the Bees back in December.
Guardiola will be without Cole Palmer and Gabriel Jesus again, but is likely to have a fit squad to pick from otherwise, with some of the rested players for the weekend’s FA Cup win in contention to return. For Brentford, boss Thomas Frank said new signing Christian Eriksen won’t be available for selection.
With Liverpool not in action until Thursday, City can restore their lead at the top of the table to 12 points with victory, even if they will have played two more games over second place.
Follow below for pre-match build-up, live match updates and post-match reaction from the Etihad.
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26′ City 0-0 BrentfordStuart Brennan
Pep putting his money where his mouth is
Guardiola talked about prompting the ballboys to be quick in returning the all as his team seek to keep the pressure on the Bees.
He’s done a pretty good job of it himself, grabbing the ball and quickly throwing it to a blue shirt from his technical area.
23′ City 0-0 BrentfordStuart Brennan
Brentford are frustrating City
We’re starting to see why Pep was talking about a high tempo being essential before the game.
Brentford are frustrating City, but they are putting a lot into the game – City have a habit of wearing teams down, making them slog their guts out and then pouncing when they start to wilt.
22′ City 0-0 BrentfordJoe Bray
Ederson tips over
Jensen tries to catch Ederson out by going for goal after shaping to shoot, but the goalkeeper is alert and tips over. The flag goes up, so it wouldn’t have been counted.
21′ City 0-0 BrentfordJoe Bray
Lots of corners already
After Guardiola made such a point over Brentford’s set-piece threats at both ends – and presumably in the air in general – City are sending a lot of high crosses into the box. They’ve had a number of corners which have all come to nothing.
Yet City’s best chances of getting through the defense have been playing it on the floor as they’re so good at. They might yet score with a header, but it seems to be playing into Brentford’s hands at the moment.
16′ City 0-0 BrentfordSimon Bakkowski
An ‘intriguing start’
We’re still at the point of the game where TV commentators will call this intriguing rather than boring but there really isn’t very much happening as both sides prove as good at not letting their opponents near their goalkeeper as they are bad at getting to the goal oppositionkeeper.
Thomas Frank seems the more frustrated on the touchline, screaming away at his players
11′ City 0-0 BrentfordStuart Brennan
High risk from the visitors
Brentford quite happy to press City high -they had three players involved in trying to keep Stones penned into the corner.
High-risk against City, as they are masters at finding a way out and punishing such gambles.
10′ City 0-0 BrentfordJoe Bray
All City so far
Aside from one brief Brentford counter that was quickly extinguished, it’s been all City in the opening ten minutes. They’re moving the ball around with purpose, and just waiting for the gaps to open up.
No clear chances yet, bar that Foden header, but you sense it won’t be long.
6′ City 0-0 BrentfordJoe Bray
Full story: Guardiola explains team selection
Pep Guardiola has explained his thinking behind a curious Manchester City starting line-up vs Brentford, which saw John Stones, Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias all playing.
Regular right-back Kyle Walker was dropped to the bench, with the versatile Joao Cancelo starting as the only recognized full-back in the City team to face Brentford. Guardiola had warned against the Bees’ set piece threats before the game, and used Nathan Ake at left-back in the reverse fixture in London in December.
That appears to have influenced his thinking on Wednesday at the Etihad, with three commanding centre-backs picked, along with the returning Rodri, for the home clash with Thomas Frank’s men.
Speaking to BT Sport, Guardiola didn’t directly refer to the defensive selection, but did suggest he was open to giving all players a chance to play when asked about Raheem Sterling’s inclusion.
“We arrive at an important part of the season, what we have done in the last six years we will continue what we have done, everyone continues to be involved,” he said.
Read the full story here.
4′ City 0-0 BrentfordSimon Bakkowski
Foden through the middle
De Bruyne got the ball in the right channel and Foden on the edge of the penalty area gave him a nod as if to say, go on play the exact ball that you played at Brentford away and I’ll get on the end of it again .
De Bruyne was tempted, but decided against it. It won’t stop Foden looking for it though as he lines up in the No.9 role.
Then Foden heads wide under pressure from a De Bruyne cross from deep.
2′ City 0-0 BrentfordJoe Bray
Great effort from Brentford fans
It’s a great effort from the Brentford fans to pack out their end tonight.
West London is one of the longest journeys and night matches are never nice for getting home from but there are thousands here to cheer their team on.
1′ City 0-0 BrentfordJoe Bray
Stones on the right
Laporte and Dias central.
1′ City 0-0 BrentfordJoe Bray
After both sides take the knee, we’re underway.
After a light show to ‘Hey Jude’ – which is the Brentford song, too – the teams are out to a busy Etihad.
Prep for Sporting?
Whoever does play right back tonight, it could be a dry run for next week’s Champions League game at Sporting Lisbon, when Walker is suspended.
The presumption is that Cancelo will play on the right and Zinchenko come in on the left – the usual switch when Walker is rested or not available – but Guardiola is not short of options.
Mahrez in hot form
Riyad Mahrez keeps his place, partly because Gabriel Jesus is still not fit, but also because he is on a scoring streak, netting a goal in each of his last six competitive games for the Blues.
That has made him the leading goalscorer with 15 – the only player in double figures. With six assists as well, it’s a very today return, and he is closing on the personal best of 18 he set in Leicester’s title-winning season.
Pep explains team selection
Asked by BT Sport why Jack Grealish is benched, Guardiola says:
“We arrive at an important part of the season, what we have done in the last six years we will continue what we have done, everyone continues to be involved. Some more than others. They have to be good to play more than I think .”
On Brentford’s threat, he said:
“What they do they do really well, today Toney is not there for the link for the central defender. They make two or three areas high pressing. After they stay high, but when you arrive in final third they defend so deep. It’s so difficult to attack.You have to stay patient, do not concede fouls because in the set pieces and corners they are the best in the best team in the Premier League for average.We have to be alert, no fouls, make a lot of rhythm, Rhythm, rhythm, play, play, play. If the ball is out the ball boys have to be ready. If they are not ready, we have to be the ballboys. Play in this rhythm and make them suffer.”
Have City hinted at who plays on the right?
The other possibility in this line-up, of course, is that Cancelo stays at left back and John Stones is right back – equally possible.
But City put out the team seemingly with Cancelo on the right – all will become clear once kick-off comes round.
Hope over expectation for visiting fans
It’s safe to say the Brentford fans are hoping they can get something tonight rather than expecting anything.
They’re going through a sticky patch and a spanking in the FA Cup at Everton certainly didn’t do anything for morale.
Teams need to be confident to upset City, but wounded sides with a point to prove can be pretty lethal.
Gundogan benched in the league again
Ilkay Gundogan has goals in each of his last three starts and also has two assists from his last three substitute appearances, but is on the bench again tonight.
It’s a sign of the serious strength in depth that Guardiola has, being able to rely on Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, but it must be frustrating for Gundogan given how well he performs whenever he is on the pitch.
Pep taking Brentford threat seriously
Looks like Pep is taking Brentford’s setpiece threat very seriously, playing Laporte at left back alongside Dias and Stones – with Rodri back in midfield, that is a big powerful unit when defending corners and free kicks into the box.
Unusual that the City boss is so reactive.
It means Cancelo is right back and Kyle Walker steps on to the bench.
Watch City players arriving
echoes of the reverse fixture
Maybe it’s not such a curious selection after all.
Toney ruled out for Brentford
A big blow for the Bees.
Laporte at left back?
Or could Cancel play on the left, with John Stones on the right?
City team news confirmed
So Phil Foden starts, as do Ruben Dias, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte.
Foden used to account for Jesus absence?
Guardiola described Jesus as the best City have for pressing from the front but he also Included Foden in that conversation.
With Jesus absent, that helps understand why Foden is in and why he is still being used as a forward rather than moving back into midfield.
City squad confirmed
Phil Foden starts.
This is the squad seen arriving today:
Bernardo, Rodri, Cancelo, Dias, Ake, Stones, McAtee, Delap, Laporte, Foden, Grealish, Steffen, Sterling, Mahrez, Ederson, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Fernandinho, Walker, Carson, Zinchenko
Form on City’s side tonight
Even though City’s winning run ended against Southampton, they have not dropped points in back-to-back games for over a year, stretching back 49 games to December 2020.
Meanwhile, Brentford have lost five games in a row in all competitions, and defeat tonight would see them lose five consecutive league games for the first time since 2007.
Brentford have conceded first in 15 of their last 16 league games, while City have won the last 19 games where they’ve taken the lead.
And if that wasn’t enough, City are on a 17-game winning run on Wednesday’s, stretching back to December 2018.
Find out if any of that is significant from 7.45!
City odds-on favorites to win
The bookmakers have City as clear favorites against Brentford today:
Manchester City vs Brentford odds with Grosvenor Sport
Man City 1/10
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.