Champions Manchester City host Sunderland and will want a comfortable win to ease pressure following a poor showing in the Champions League so far this season. The Black Cats, meanwhile, will be on a high after registering their first league win of the season last week, against Wigan.
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For all their undoubted flair in attack, Roberto Mancini will be concerned his side are still leaking goals and seem very unstable at the back. The back four were brought sharply into relief after conceding twice in five minutes against Real Madrid in the Champions League and subsequent goals have led to points being dropped in the league, Champions League and elimination from the League Cup. In fact, City have not kept a clean sheet in competitive games this season. Worse still, the champions have only won once since the 3-1 defeat of QPR on 1 September. The club were completely outplayed by German champions Borussia Dortmund midweek, and without Joe Hart's brilliance in goal, the late penalty converted by Mario Balotelli for a 1-1 draw would have been only a consolation.
The good news is City made a strong comeback to win their last league game - 2-1 at Fulham - and are currently only four points off league leaders Chelsea, who have 16 points from the first six games. They may be shipping goals but at least the Citizens are still winning games.
Sunderland earned a 1-0 win over Wigan last week, for their first three points of the season. The result means they are in 13th place, with seven points from five games. Martin O'Neill's practical approach to life in the Premier League saw the side earn draws in their first four games; this included a creditable 2-2 draw against Swansea and an impressive 1-1 draw against Liverpool. The emergence of Scotland striker Steven Fletcher as a regular goal source has been another piece of good news for the club, with the former Wolves man scoring a sensational five goals in four league games.
- Last Five (most recent first): W W D D D
- Last Result: Sunderland 1 - 0 Wigan
- Last Five (most recent first): D W L D L
- Last Result: Manchester City 1 - 1 Borussia Dortmund
Manchester City: Mancini will not be able to call on either Javi Garcia or Yaya Toure in the midfield and the latter, in particular, will be a huge loss. The Ivory Coast star is one of the most important players in the squad but was seen limping towards the end of the Borussia Dortmund game, after Garcia had already gone off injured. While the manager has played down injury fears over both players, he is unlikely to risk either one, particularly since the pressure will now build up to the side's third Champions League game - at home to Dutch champions Ajax.
In addition, right backs Maicon and Micah Richards remain unavailable. This means Argentine Pablo Zabaleta will remain in that position, despite looking slightly suspect in both Champions League games. Centre back Joleon Lescott is fit again, though, and given the club's defensive problems, restoring last season's pairing of Vincent Kompany and the Englishman could be a tempting proposition for Mancini.
New signing and youngster Jack Rodwell was not at his best against Dortmund and if either Toure or Garcia are available, the former Everton player is unlikely to start. However, unless James Milner is given a surprise recall, he is set to feature alongside compatriot Gareth Barry. Up front, David Silva will be the key to unlocking the Black Cats' defence.
Probable Line-Up: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Barry, Rodwell (if Toure is not fit); Silva, Sinclair, Tevez; Balotelli
Sunderland: The visitors will look to Fletcher once again but City should also beware of Stephane Sessegnon, who was so influential last season and uses his pace and power to good effect behind the lone striker. The big news for the visitors is the expected return of Spanish defender Carlos Cuellar but he still lacks match fitness, meaning he will probably start from the bench. This means Titus Bramble will continue in the centre of defence alongside former Manchester United man John O'Shea, in what will certainly be a very long afternoon's work for the pair.
Probable Line-Up: Mignolet; Gardner, O'Shea, Bramble, Rose; Johnson, Larsson, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Fletcher
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