After two cup wins and 16 goals scored, Premier League champions Manchester City's focus turns back to the league and a home tie with Wolves.
Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Key Stat: Manchester City have won 12 of their last 13 home matches and scored 52 goals at the Etihad in that time.
Expert Verdict: Manchester City are not unbeatable at the Etihad Stadium - Crystal Palace proved that just before Christmas - but Pep Guardiola's side have won the other 12 of their last 13 home games, including their crucial win against Premier League leaders Liverpool in their last home game. They followed that win up with two cup wins and 16 goals scored. This will not be so one-sided, but it should still end with a City win.
Pep Guardiola was able to rotate players for the 7-0 FA Cup win against Rotherham United and 9-0 thrashing of Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup, while also handing vital minutes to Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva to aid their returns from injury. Fernandinho will return for this league match – probably in place of Ilkay Gundogan – while Sergio Aguero is expected to recover from illness to replace Gabriel Jesus. Vincent Kompany hobbled off at the end of City’s 2-1 win against Liverpool, and so John Stones and Aymeric Laporte could start together at centre-back, with Fabian Delph – back from suspension – slotting in at left-back; Benjamin Mendy is still a couple of weeks away from fitness.
Sergio Aguero – Opened the scoring against Liverpool to move to 14 goals for the season, while he has also contributed four assists.
Raheem Sterling – Rested against Burton and so will return fresh as he looks to add to 11 goals and 11 assists so far this season
Kevin de Bruyne – Fit again and opened the scoring against Burton. The Belgian has a big role to play in the second half of the season after his injury troubles in the first few months.
After defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester either side of Christmas, despite leading both games, City have won four from four to bounce back to form. They won 3-1 at Southampton, with David Silva and Sergio Aguero scoring either side of an own goal, before the vital 2-1 home defeat of Liverpool – Aguero and Leroy Sane scoring. Two cup games against lower-league opposition have followed, with City putting seven past Rotherham United in the FA Cup and nine past Burton Albion in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final. Gabriel Jesus scored four in the latter and one against Rotherham, while teenager Phil Foden and record signing Riyad Mahrez also scored in both games.
Defenders:Kyle Walker, John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, Fabian Delph
Midfielders:Kevin de Bruyne, Fernandinho, David Silva
Forwards:Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane
Wolves continue to be fortunate with injury, with Diogo Jota – one of few absentees this season – returning to face Liverpool in the FA Cup. Matt Doherty could start in place of Ruben Vinagre against City, with Jonny Castro switching back to the left, but Wolves could stick with the five-man midfield (as opposed to 3-4-3) they used against Liverpool. That would mean Leander Dendoncker in, and Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro continuing on the bench.
Raul Jimenez – The Mexican striker scored his seventh goal of the season in the home win against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
Ruben Neves – Scored the winner against Liverpool with a good, long-range finish to issue another reminder of his ability in the middle.
Matt Doherty – Three goals and four assists from right wing-back so far this season for the Irish international, who faces the thankless task of marking Raheem Sterling or Leroy Sane on Sunday.
Wolves’ inconsistency has been proved with recent results, where they have won two of their last four games. Those wins were away to Tottenham Hotspur – Willy Boly, Raul Jimenez and Helder Costa scoring in a 3-1 comeback win at Wembley - and at home to a weakened Liverpool side in the FA Cup. Raul Jimenez and Ruben Neves scored the goals. In between, however, Wolves lost 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace.
Defenders:Ryan Bennett, Conor Coady, Willy Boly
Midfielders:Matt Doherty, Ruben Neves, Leander Dendoncker, Joao Moutinho, Jonny Castro
Forwards:Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota
Manchester City have a slight edge overall in this fixture, with 47 wins to Wolves’ 46, but the reverse fixture earlier in the season ended in a 1-1 draw at Molineux – the 25th time the two teams have drawn. Aymeric Laporte cancelled out Willy Boly’s opener in that game, and Nuno Espirito Santo has still therefore not lost to City in normal time – the only other meeting since Wolves’ 2012 relegation from the Premier League (which was confirmed by a 2-0 City win at Molineux) having been a goalless draw in last year’s Carabao Cup. City won on penalties.
Manchester City have been back to their scintillating best after their two defeats over Christmas, with three eye-catching wins in a week.
The first was a superb performance to inflict a first league defeat of the season on Liverpool, before two thrashings of lower-league opposition in the two domestic cups.
It has given Pep Guardiola the chance to ease players back to fitness – giving valuable game time to David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne, while also resting Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero since the Liverpool game.
All four should feature against Wolves, who have every reason to be fearful given City’s superb home form.
Crystal Palace’s 3-2 win at the Etihad proves they can be beaten, however – and Wolves have already a taken a point from them this season when they drew 1-1 at Molineux.
Wolves’ goal should have been disallowed for handball and Sergio Aguero hit the bar late on, and realistically Wolves will need some more of that luck against City.
They are capable of big results – they have also drawn at Arsenal, won at Wembley against Spurs and beaten Chelsea at home too – but they are inconsistent.
Their counter-attacking, high pressing system could prove fruitful against City, but likewise they may find Matt Doherty and Jonny Castro are pressed back by defensive commitments – nullifying the threat of both going forward.
City will know not to write Wolves off, but it is absolutely vital they back up their win against Liverpool with another league victory and, in truth, it would be a surprise if they failed to do exactly that.
Manchester City’s form means you will do well to get better than 888sport’s 2/11 on the hosts to beat Wolves, who have been inconsistent this season.
Goals have flowed at the Etihad this season, with City averaging four per game in their last 13 home matches. Over 2.5 goals will return a best price of 4/9 with 888sport. Ladbrokes are offering a best price of 4/7 on City to win and over 2.5 goals.
Sergio Aguero is likely to return and the Argentine – who opened the scoring against Liverpool – is 3/4 to score at any time. Raheem Sterling is 21/20 with Bet365 and Ladbrokes.
This will be a very different fixture to City’s two cup wins in the past week, but they should still see off a Wolves side who have struggled for consistency despite some eye-catching results this season.