Anyone expecting a walkover when Manchester City host Huddersfield Town at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday should cast their minds back to last season, when the Terriers were the only team to keep a clean sheet at the Etihad Stadium throughout the entire campaign.
David Wagner’s team fought tooth and nail for that precious point and they will have to do so again this weekend if they are to come away with anything against the champions.
City may be a wounded animal after this week’s news of a 12-week spell on the sidelines for Kevin De Bruyne, but they have coped well without him against stronger opposition in recent weeks and will fancy their chances of an easy victory here.
Here are three key battles which could decide this match.
3. Pep Guardiola vs David Wagner
The only manager who seemed to have Pep Guardiola’s number last season was Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. He may have been sharing notes with his friend David Wagner, who also engaged in two fascinating tactical battles with the Spaniard.
Huddersfield nearly brought Manchester City’s 18-match winning run to a halt at the John Smith’s Stadium in November, taking the lead and then holding out until Raheem Sterling’s 84th minute winner. Wagner then set up his team perfectly to nullify City when the two sides met in Manchester.
But Wagner unsuccessfully experimented with a new formation last week, and Guardiola will hope to take advantage of his tactical uncertainty with a straightforward victory.
2. David Silva vs Aaron Mooy
No Kevin De Bruyne? No problem. David Silva should be in line for a return to the Manchester City lineup this week after being left out against Arsenal as a precaution. Replacing a man who got 21 assists last season with one who got 14 is not a bad trade-off.
Silva is 32 now and recently announced his retirement from international football, but like a fine wine he is only getting better with age. He has won every trophy available in football…apart from the Champions League. Could this be the year?
Aaron Mooy always has a point to prove when he plays against Manchester City, having been sold without making an appearance in 2017. He was exceptional at the Etihad in May, and if he can stop Manchester City’s attacks at their source then maybe Huddersfield can hope for a similar result on Sunday.
1. Sergio Aguero vs Christopher Schindler
Sergio Aguero is not a guaranteed starter for Manchester City, which is a crazy thing to say about a player who recently became the first to surpass 200 goals for the club. Gabriel Jesus will also be pushing for a start, but with no fixture congestion at this early stage of the season there’s little reason for Pep Guardiola to drop his star striker.
Aguero was stuck on 199 City goals for a while after finishing last season on the sidelines, but his lethal Community Shield brace against Chelsea got him over that hurdle and proved that he is still the man for the big occasion.
Up against the Argentine on Sunday is Christopher Schindler, Huddersfield’s runaway Player of the Year last season after some commanding defensive performances. His season didn’t get off to a great start last week though as he gave away the penalty for Chelsea’s second goal.
Aguero has to prove that he should still be City’s first-choice striker ahead of his younger rival, and Schindler will be wanting redemption after last week’s mistake. This will be a battle worth watching.