LONDON, United Kingdom, Nov 5 – Manchester City will have the chance to put daylight between themselves and their title rivals when the Premier League leaders try to cap a memorable week by beating Middlesbrough on Saturday.
City lead on goal difference from Arsenal and Liverpool, with Chelsea just a point further back.
Arsenal are not in action until Sunday when they face Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby, with Liverpool also at home to Watford that day.
Tuesday finally saw City get the better of Barcelona as they beat the Spanish giants 3-1 in the Champions League.
It was a particularly sweet victory for City manager Pep Guardiola, who made his name as both a player and coach at Barcelona.
The match also saw City fans’ favourite Sergio Aguero lead the attack after he was controversially left out of the starting line-up for the 4-0 loss in Barcelona a fortnight ago — a move that sparked concerns regarding his Eastlands future under Guardiola.
But the City boss has insisted he wants Aguero to stay and the 28-year-old Argentina forward said: “I’m never angry. I respect every manager’s decision.
“He said it was a tactical thing and I obviously respect that.”
Middlesbrough are managed by Guardiola’s fellow Spaniard Aitor Karanka and he for one was not surprised by City’s midweek win.
“They have amazing players and they have all the alternatives so (for them) it was just another game,” said Karanka, whose Boro side beat Bournemouth 2-0 last weekend.
Chelsea, fresh from a 2-0 win over Southampton and without the distraction of European football, will bid to keep pace with City at home to Everton.
Since reverting to a back three, manager Antonio Conte has seen his side keep four straight clean sheets in the league but the Italian is also delighted at the form of Diego Costa, who is a different player to the one who looked out of sorts last season.
He is the leading scorer in the Premier League after 10 games with eight goals.
“I think I am seeing a complete player in Diego. It is fantastic for me to have him in the team, and also because he is scoring a lot,” said Conte on Friday.
– ‘Toughest competitions’ –
Arsenal have not lost in any competition since the opening day of the season and their midweek 3-2 win away to Bulgaria’s Ludogorets saw the Gunners secure their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Having played 75 minutes against Ludogorets, Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey — who has spent several weeks out with a hamstring injury — is eager to start against Spurs at the Emirates, saying: “Of course I’m ready.”
By contrast, Spurs were lacklustre in a 1-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League at Wembley.
They may boast the Premier League’s lone remaining unbeaten record and are just three points off top spot, but Spurs have not won any of their last six games in all competitions.
They are also desperately short of goals so there is likely to be some role for last season’s leading scorer Harry Kane as he returns from seven weeks out with an ankle injury.
“He will be in the squad,” said Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino.
“He will be available for Sunday and then I need to decide (whether he should be in the) starting XI or (on the) bench.”
Jose Mourinho will hope his Manchester United side, already eight points adrift of top spot, can provide him with some respite at second-bottom Swansea City on Sunday following a mediocre display in a 2-1 Europa League loss away to Fenerbahce.
Mourinho, set to serve a touchline ban at the Liberty Stadium, accused his team of treating the match like a “summer friendly”.
Fixtures (1500 GMT unless stated)
Bournemouth v Sunderland, Burnley v Crystal Palace, Chelsea v Everton (1730 GMT), Manchester City v Middlesbrough, West Ham v Stoke
Arsenal v Tottenham (1200 GMT), Hull v Southampton (1415 GMT), Leicester v West Brom (1630 GMT), Liverpool v Watford (1415 GMT), Swansea v Manchester United