Here come the players! Nice to see Brentford wearing their normal kit rather than some ridiculous away strip made of ideas.
A BT poll graphic shows that 75% of viewers think Man City will win the title. The other 25% go for Arsenal. Presumably there were only two voting options although, to be fair, is anyone else in with a sniff?
Bernardo Silva’s beard is getting quite thick now. Hope it doesn’t affect his sublime balance. City have 16 internationals going to the World Cup. “See any signs of distraction; minds elsewhere,” asks BT’s Des Kelly. “No, not at all, not at all” says Bernardo firmly. “We know how important it is to be focused in these kind of games.”
Peter from Copenhagen notes the Brentford starting XI and emails: “Is 3 Danes at Brentford enough to beat Man City? Don’t they need Norgaard (on the bench) too, to be sure of a victory?”
Add in a couple of Laudrups and a Jan Molby and they might have a chance, Peter. Talking of Denmark…
Thomas Frank comes over for a word. His plans for the World Cup break? “I’m looking so much forward to it. I’m going skiing Sunday. So for me it’s perfect. It’s nice to be able to take a break.”
As for his players who aren’t heading to the World Cup, they’ll have two weeks off and then start a mini pre-season in Spain.
Peter Crouch thrusts a BT mic his way and asks how Ivan Toney is feeling after his World Cup omission. “Ivan is a person with a strong character and a strong mentality,” says Frank. “Of course you’re disappointed if you miss out on an opportunity to represent your country in a World Cup but what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and he’ll definitely be stronger after this and continue to develop. Every little setback for everyone is an opportunity to grow and be better.”
Good perspective from the Dane. Plenty of hygge in the air.
A few Opta stats that may hint at what’s to come.
Manchester City are averaging more high turnovers per game than any other side in the Premier League this season (10.8), while only Everton (27) have faced more shots from high turnovers than Brentford so far this term (25).
Only Nottingham Forest and Everton (both 16%) have played a higher percentage of their passes long in the Premier League this season than Brentford (15.6%). Indeed, David Raya has completed 60 passes to Ivan Toney, the most a goalkeeper has played to a non-defender in the competition so far this term.
Kevin De Bruyne has fired more shots from outside the box than any other player in the Premier League this season (24), with two of his three goals so far coming from distance. Meanwhile, only Tottenham (93) have faced more shots from outside the box than Brentford (92) so far this term.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola wanders onto the pitch to chat to the BT Sport crew and Rio Ferdinand (now an OBE) points out that City have won their last 16 home games in all competitions.
“We are confident to play at home, it’s better to play at home than away, that’s normal,” says Pep.
“The 16, this number is no guarantee that you’re going to win. We have to adapt to what they do, they are good in transition with the two strikers, the set pieces they are so good.”
Ivan Toney will surely be pumped for this one. He’s returning from a one-match suspension while Gareth Southgate left him out of England’s World Cup squad.
And in tweet form…
Full starting XIs…
Three changes for City as Haaland, Foden and Laporte come in for Alvarez, Grealish and Ake.
Man City: Ederson, Stones, Cancelo, Gundogan, Haaland, Laporte, Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva, Akanji, Foden.
Substitutes: Moreno, Dias, Phillips, Grealish, Alvarez, Gomez, Mahrez, Palmer, Lewis.
Brentford: Raya, Henry, Pinnock, Jensen, Zanka, Onyeka, Mee, Toney, Mbeumo, Janelt, Roerslev.
Substitutes: Cox, Norgaard, Canos, Dasilva, Wissa, Ghoddos, Lewis-Potter, Crama, Yarmoliuk.
Team news: Haaland starts for City
Full starting XIs coming up but the big news is that Erling Haaland starts!
Manchester City haven’t quite been the unstoppable force most have billed them as all season. But in terms of home form they’ve been perfect. Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest, Manchester United, Southampton, Brighton and Fulham have all been swatted away and only the latter got to within a goal. Then again, City played that game with 10 men for 74 minutes following Joao Cancelo’s red card.
They come up against a Brentford side who are one of just four top-flight teams without an away win so far. It’s hard to think that run ends here.
Still, Brentford gave City two competitive games last season, losing 2-0 in this fixture and only 1-0 at home. City only managed three shots on target in that single-goal defeat so perhaps Thomas Frank has found a way of stopping City’s relentless possession turning into threats on goal. Famous last words perhaps.
Of course, the other sub-plot here is World Cup injury watch. Qatar-bound managers will be watching this weekend’s action with hearts in mouths so hopefully everyone comes through unscathed.
City go top again with a win but Arsenal can secure the Christmas No 1 spot with victory at Wolves in tonight’s evening kick-off. So, for a final time until Boxing Day, let Premier League battle commence.
Kick off 12.30pm GMT.