LONDON, United Kingdom, Oct 28 – Pep Guardiola takes Manchester City to West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League this weekend still trying to figure out how to lift the club out of their autumn downturn.
Scintillating over the season’s early weeks, which saw them win their first 10 games, they have now gone six matches without victory, culminating in Wednesday’s 1-0 League Cup defeat at Manchester United.
While they remain top of the league table on goal difference, City’s swashbuckling form has petered out and left-back Gael Clichy hopes their luck changes soon.
“We gave everything and at the moment we are not getting what we deserve,” the France international told the City website.
“Lately, the results and the points are not on board. We have to keep working and we’re sure we’re going to get there.
“If we are a bit more clinical playing forward and more compact as a team, maybe we can do better.”
West Brom manager Tony Pulis, famed for his pragmatism is often portrayed in England as the antithesis to the stylish, idealistic Guardiola.
Despite being 13th in the table, West Brom have a better defensive record than Manchester United and Liverpool, and have lost only once at home this season.
“Every game this season, we’ve been in,” said Pulis. “There’s not been a game we’ve not been in and that’s testament to the players.”
Buoyed by their derby victory over City, United will look to get their league campaign back on track at home to Burnley.
Jose Mourinho’s side were battered 4-0 by his former club Chelsea last weekend, but Luke Shaw believes the victory over City, courtesy of Juan Mata’s second-half goal, could prove a turning point.
“It was very important,” said the England left-back. “We saw Guardiola said it was like a final and to us that is what it felt like. To get the win was massive.
“(It was) a big confidence boost after obviously the disappointing result that we bounced back, got a win and now we need to go on a winning streak.”
– Arsenal ‘hungry’ –
United go into the weekend in seventh place, six points behind leaders City, Arsenal and Liverpool.
But they are better off than defending champions Leicester City, who sit three points below them in 12th place with just three wins from their opening nine games.
On Saturday Claudio Ranieri’s side travel to Tottenham Hotspur, who threatened to pip them in last season’s title race.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men are a point off top spot and Ranieri has braced his players for a battle.
“Spurs are the only unbeaten team in the Premier League because they have a very good squad. They can change and rotate,” said the Italian.
“Tottenham are a fantastic team. Last year they were very close to us and will continue to fight for the title.”
A late slump saw Tottenham pipped to second place by their North London rivals Arsenal, whose early-season form suggests they could be poised to go one better this term.
A six-game winning run came to an end in last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough, but Arsene Wenger’s team beat Reading in the League Cup in mid-week and now face a Sunderland side rooted to the base of the table.
“I think the spirit is really good in the team,” said midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Reading.
“Even when we drew with Middlesbrough on the weekend, it was almost like we lost the game. It shows how hungry this team are to win.
“We’re in a spell where we feel like we should be winning every game and we can win every game, so that’s a good thing.”
Liverpool, third behind City and Arsenal on goal difference, visit Crystal Palace, while fourth-place Chelsea, dumped out of the League Cup by West Ham United on Wednesday, travel to Southampton.
Saturday (1400 GMT unless otherwise stated):
Crystal Palace v Liverpool (1630), Manchester United v Burnley, Sunderland v Arsenal (1130), Tottenham v Leicester, West From v Manchester City, Middlesbrough v Bournemouth, Watford v Hull
Everton v West Ham (1330 GMT), Southampton v Chelsea (1600 GMT)
Monday (2000 GMT):
Stoke v Swansea