Ahead of the trip to Etihad Stadium, get the lowdown on Manchester City from BBC Radio Manchester's Ian Cheeseman.
How would you sum up City’s season so far?
The early part was really good and of all the games City have played so far, in Champions League, League Cup and Premier League, there hasn’t been a bad game among any of them. The entertainment levels are superb. Perhaps they aren’t quite at the level yet where they can sustain their peak performance for 90 minutes, but there have been half hours, hours and spells that have been frankly mesmerising and some of the best football I’ve ever seen, genuinely. It’s not perfect yet, it’s not the finished article – Guardiola’s said that himself – but it’s certainly eye-catching.
Just how much of an impact has Pep Guardiola had since arriving in the summer?
It just feels as if everything for quite a while at City has been towards the moment of Pep Guardiola arriving, and the fans I think have all bought into that. So, even though things are not always perfect, and there’s clearly been questions about Bravo as the keeper, the sweeper system, and a favourite like Joe Hart moving on, people are giving him an extra-ordinary amount of slack and time as it were. I think three months into the Pep Guardiola revolution, if that’s what you want to call it, things have gone very well.
What is the style of play and system like under Guardiola?
In very simple teams, it seems to be as long as City can outscore the opposition it doesn’t necessarily worry Pep Guardiola or this set of players on the whole. There is a definite philosophy of entertainment being absolutely top. While everyone is realistic to know winning is invaluable, it does seem a very high store is put on philosophy and the way of playing, which is very noticeably attack-minded, creativity-minded and flair-minded.
The characteristic of Guardiola is there is no rigid formation. In fact, as a reporter, it’s a nightmare to sit and actually write down. We in this country have got so used to talking about formations and all the different permutations, and sometimes when I see the XI it’s hard to know what the formation’s going to be. With previous managers you could pretty much always work it out, but not with Guardiola. He does vary things. Flexibility is a big part of what they do. For me to actually go, ‘He plays in this formation,’ I couldn’t do it.
How will the midweek defeat to Barcelona and City’s run of four games without a win impact this game?
At Guardiola’s press conference, he talked a lot about the fact he’s only been there three months, and the fact he wants to change the way City play. He seems to be wanting to think long-term all the time about City, but he’s also very aware of the fact they’ve just gone four games without a win and they’ve also got the Manchester derby in the League Cup next Wednesday, so I think beating Southampton on Sunday will be right at the top of his agenda, and I’m sure the players will be hurting a bit.
They haven’t been playing badly in these games, but any sequence where you don’t win for four means you have a bit of something to prove. They desperately will want to win on Sunday, especially going into that derby, and they’ll want to stay top of the table.
Who will be City’s key men?
Zabaleta is out and Sagna is already out, so they’ve clearly got a bit of an issue at right back. But, in terms of those who will probably be key in terms of winning the game, Kevin De Bruyne is very much the man in form and the assist king. He’s fully fit again. I think Agüero having not started the last two I would be very surprised if he didn’t start and I think he might have a bit of a point to prove, plus he’s effectively had a rest for a week and a half, so I’d be quite worried about him if I was a Southampton fan.