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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Sunderland set for struggle against classy City

Guardiola's free-scoring outfit look handicap snip

Raheem Sterling is one of Manchester City's many attacking threats
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Premier League
Sky Sports 1, 4pm Sunday

Manchester City opened the Premier League campaign with a victory against Sunderland and Pep Guardiola's side should easily land the double over the Black Cats.

Guardiola has already conceded the Premier League title to Chelsea but City are playing well enough to take advantage if the leaders slip up, and with the goals flowing, this Stadium of Light trip should hold few concerns.

That's what the odds suggest and rather than get involved in the short match prices it could be worth taking City to win by at least two goals.

They have done exactly that in six of their last seven victories, scoring five goals in three different matches in 2017.

That includes each of the last two outings - a crazy 5-3 triumph over Monaco in the Champions League before a more comfortable 5-1 FA Cup success over Huddersfield on Wednesday. 

Sunderland don't have anything like the firepower of Monaco to hurt City on the break, while it could be argued the rock-bottom Black Cats are a worse side than Huddersfield.

Yaya Toure and David Silva were rested in midweek but Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero were both on target against the Sky Bet Championship high-flyers, while Raheem Sterling is delivering consistently excellent performances.

There are still defensive concerns but City are getting better in that department and have conceded only six shots on target in their last four Premier League matches.

City have still shipped three goals from those attempts and, quite remarkably, the last ten attempts at their goal in Premier League matches have resulted in seven goals going in.

However, whether Sunderland will have enough of the ball to create any problems remains open to debate. City started the weekend top of the possession table (61 per cent), while only Burnley and West Brom average less than the hosts' 43 per cent.

The bizarre 4-0 win at Crystal Palace was the only time Sunderland have scored in their last five Premier League games and their reliance on Jermain Defoe is quite frightening. Defoe has scored 58 per cent (14 of 24) of their top-flight goals this season.

Sunderland can point to home draws with Liverpool and Tottenham in 2017 as a reason for hope but the statistics behind the results highlight the good fortune needed by the Black Cats.

Liverpool had 71 per cent possession and 15 shots on target in the 2-2 draw (both Sunderland goals were Defoe penalties), while Spurs had 72 per cent of the ball and won the shot count 14-3.

If City enjoy similar numbers their sensational attack should do serious damage.

Man City -1.5 Asian handicap
2pts 5-6 188Bet

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Team news
On-loan Jason Denayer cannot play against his former club but Papy Djilobodji returns after suspension. Vito Mannone and Billy Jones are also available but Jack Rodwell is doubtful and Jan Kirchhoff, Steven Pienaar, Paddy McNair, Duncan Watmore, Victor Anichebe and Lee Cattermole are all injured.

Man City
Vincent Kompany and Aleksandar Kolarov are back in contention. Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan remain sidelined with long-term injuries.

Key stat
Jermain Defoe is the only Sunderland player still at the club to score at home since November 19

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Sunderland can point to home draws with Liverpool and Tottenham in 2017 as a reason for hope but the statistics behind the results highlight the good
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