Manchester City host David Moyes’ Sunderland side on the opening day of the season. As manager Pep Guardiola makes his Premier League bow, we spoke to James Hunter of The Chronicle.
1. There has been a change of manager at the Stadium of Light, with Sam Allardyce becoming the new England manager. How much do you think this has affected the Black Cats’ preparations for the new season?
Changing manager four weeks before the start of the Premier League campaign was a huge setback. Not only did it happen in the midst of pre-season, but the uncertainty surrounding Sam Allardyce’s position had lasted almost a fortnight – meaning all incoming transfers were effectively put on hold until the situation was resolved. David Moyes has had to assess the squad he inherited, and identify his own transfer targets, all while preparing the players for the opening weekend. Sunderland need at least five or six new players just to bring their squad up to strength and at the time of writing only one signing has arrived, which is a major concern.
2. Allardyce used to pride himself upon clean sheets as Sunderland manager. Will David Moyes approach the game in the same manner as Allardyce would or will he play more open, expressive football?
I expect Moyes to adopt a similar approach to Allardyce – at first, at least – because he has virtually the same players with the same strengths and weaknesses. Only when he has reshaped the squad to his own liking will he be able to play his own brand of football, and then I think he will look to play a similar way to that which was so successful for him at Everton.
3. Which three players do City need to watch out for on Saturday?
If Jermain Defoe is fit he is the obvious danger, but he is likely to be a doubt. Aside from him, Fabio Borini and Wahbi Khazri are goal threats, while left-back Patrick van Aanholt can also cause problems when he gets forward.
4. Do Sunderland have any injury concerns ahead of the match?
As I’ve already mentioned, Defoe is the big injury worry. But influential midfielder Jan Kirchhoff is also a doubt with a hamstring problem, while if right-back Billy Jones fails to recover from a hip problem in time, Moyes will have to either take a chance on a youngster or – more likely – play someone out of position.
5. It is well-known that City often struggle against Sunderland. Do you expect it to be a tight game?
Sunderland have a good record against City at the Stadium of Light, but have never won at the Etihad. City’s squad is on a completely different level to that of Sunderland, and – on paper at least – it is a mismatch. But stranger things have happened, and it may be no bad thing to face City on the opening day before they have hit their stride under Pep Guardiola.
6. And finally, what is your score prediction for the match?
City are clear favourites, so I reckon a 3-1 home win.
Thanks to James Hunter for speaking to our editor, Jack Brain.