Pep Guardiola’s men can book their place in next season’s Champions League by avoiding defeat at Vicarage Road but may need to win to avoid a play-off
Manchester City are all but certain to qualify for next season’s Champions League but may require a victory at Watford on Sunday to go straight into the group stage and avoid a play-off tie.
Pep Guardiola’s team currently sit in third place, two points ahead of Liverpool and three clear of Arsenal. They also have the best goal difference of the three sides, but not by an insurmountable margin.
While a draw at Vicarage Road will ensure City participate in Europe’s top competition, it could put them at risk of dropping down to fourth if Liverpool can beat Middlesbrough at home by three goals.
|Game||Watford vs Manchester City|
|Date||Sunday, May 21, 2017|
|Time||15:00 GMT, 10:00 ET|
TV CHANNEL & LIVE STREAM
In the UK, the match will be available to watch live on television on Sky Sports 2 and by stream via Sky Go.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|Sky Sports 2||Sky Go|
In the US, the match will be available to watch live on television on the USA Network and by stream via NBC Sports Live.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|USA Network||NBC Sports Live|
SQUADS & TEAM NEWS
|Goalkeepers||Gomes, Pantilimon, Arlauskis|
|Defenders||Britos, Holebas, Zuniga, Dja Djedje, Janmaat, Mariappa, Mason|
|Midfielders||Doucoure, Behrami, Amrabat, Watson, Capoue, Cleverley|
|Forwards||Deeney, Success, Okaka, Niang|
Watford could have no fit centre-backs available, with Craig Cathcart, Younes Kaboul and Christian Kabasele injured and Sebastian Prodl suspended. That leaves Miguel Britos, who is battling to make his comeback after a calf problem, and Adrian Mariappa, who faces a late fitness test after suffering a knee injury in training.
Roberto Pereyra and Mauro Zarate are also out while Troy Deeney, whose relationship with Walter Mazzarri has come under scrutiny, has missed training due to a hip problem.
Potential starting XI: Gomes; Janmaat, Britos, Mariappa, Holebas; Capoue, Doucoure, Cleverley; Amrabat, Okaka, Niang.
|Position||Man City players|
|Defenders||Sagna, Kompany, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Clichy, Otamendi, Stones, Adarabioyo|
|Midfielders||Fernando, Navas, De Bruyne, Silva, Fernandinho, Toure, Sane, Garcia, Diaz|
|Forwards||Sterling, Aguero, Iheanacho, Nolito, Jesus|
City have known absentees in Fabian Delph, Ilkay Gundogan and Claudio Bravo but no fresh concerns.
BETTING & GAME ODDS
Man City are 3/10 favourites to win away from home, according to Oddschecker, with Watford priced at 13/1 and the draw available at 11/2.
Sergio Aguero is the 13/5 favourite to score first, with Gabriel Jesus rated at 11/4 and Troy Deeney the top choice for the hosts at 12/1.
Of the 11 players that started in Manchester City’s most famous game against QPR back in 2012, only three are not on the club’s books today.
That is quite remarkable, really; if you take Manchester United’s final XI of the 2010-11 season against Blackpool, for example, and fast forward five years to last season, not a single player remained. Extend it to the whole squad, even, and only Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia were still around.
Some of City’s starters that day, such as Joe Hart and Samir Nasri, have been pushed towards the exit door by being sent out on loan, but neither has completely moved on. Pep Guardiola tried to send Yaya Toure in the same direction only for the Ivorian to refuse and win back his place in the team.
This summer, though, there will finally be some permanent separation. Hart, Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta will definitely leave the Etihad Stadium and it is possible that Toure, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and Gael Clichy could all follow. It would be a surprise if at least one or two of them did not.
The only player who seems to be safe of the team that so dramatically beat QPR to win the club’s first Premier League title is David Silva, one of the few players inherited by Guardiola to be built in his image. A major transformation is coming and while more big spending is on the way, some of it has already been done in the deals to bring the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne, John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane to Manchester over the past couple of years.
The time is right to move into a new era, but those young players have a mountain to climb to live up to the standards set by the group that first dragged City into the Premier League’s elite.