Manchester City hope to pick themselves back up with a win over Hull at the KC Stadium in the Premier League’s early Saturday game (Watch live on NBCSN, 8:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra).
City currently sit nine points back of Chelsea in the Premier League table, but they also have three games in hand – meaning the Citizens must win them all if they hope to add another trophy to sit alongside their freshly-collected League Cup. That means there will be no room for error at Hull. Even for a side still licking their wounds after being knocked out of the Champions League after a 4-1 aggregate defeat to Barcelona – and, of course, getting booted from the FA Cup after losing to Wigan. Again.
Taking on the Tigers isn’t as easy a prospect as it might sound. Hull are just coming off their own Cup victory, a resounding 3-0 win over Sunderland that takes them on to the semi-finals at Wembley. The hosts are currently 13th in the table, but they too have a game in hand, and a win could take them back into 10th. Plus, their last outing at the KC Stadium saw them lose 4-1 to Newcastle, so the Tigers are anxious to restore their pride, if nothing else.
The visitors come to Hull for their first Premier League match in 21 days, distracted as they’ve been with their cup ties. Manuel Pellegrini’s side picked up just one victory in February, a 1-0 win over Stoke, while drawing Norwich and losing to Chelsea. Now they’ve got to get back on track – but Manchester City will almost certainly have to do it without star striker Sergio Agüero. The Argentine, only recently back from a month-long layoff, picked up a hamstring injury in the midweek loss to Barcelona. That leaves Edin Džeko and Álvaro Negredo to lead the line, with Stevan Jovetić also hurt once again.
Hull City, on the other hand, have two fresh forwards in Nikica Jelavić and Shane Long, both of whom were cup-tied last weekend. Steve Bruce, hoping to avoid a third straight defeat at home, is likely to revert back to a three-man defense, with Maynor Figueroa and James Chester flanking Curtis Davies, who’s been in excellent form this season.
What they’re saying
Manuel Pellegrini on Man City’s need for three points: We need to work hard now. We must try to fight for the title. There isn’t only Chelsea. Arsenal and Liverpool are also fighting. We need to win every game from now until the end of the season. We have had less than 72 hours to recover after a difficult week. The game against Hull is a moment to see our mentality.
Steve Bruce on facing the Citizens: “People are saying that it’s a good time to play them, but I’m not so sure. They’ll be disappointed and hurt after losing in two cup competitions and what makes the great teams is that they come out and show their teeth after something like that. I expect them to be fully at it on Saturday.”
What, I can’t get away with sitting on the fence like that? Ok, a win for Manchester City. Their egos are just too bruised after recent matches. Plus, the visitors know that they absolutely must win if they want to keep pace with Chelsea.