Manchester City welcome Watford to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday as they look to increase their lead at the Premier League summit.
Having reclaimed top spot last weekend, the game offers City the chance to open up a four point gap over second-place Liverpool, with the Reds not kicking off until Sunday.
In order to do so they will have to overcome a buoyant Hornets side who are chasing Europa League football for next season.
Watford currently sit in eighth position, level on points with Wolves who occupy the final qualification spot. Javi Gracia's men have enjoyed a purple patch recently with their fine form propelling them up the table.
Here is 90min's preview of this weekend's match-up.
Where to Watch
|When is Kick Off?||Saturday 9 March|
|What Time is Kick Off?||17:30 (GMT)|
|Where is it Played?||Etihad Stadium|
|TV Channel/Live Stream?||BT Sport 1|
Pep Guardiola will be missing a host of first team players for Saturday's clash. Centre back duo John Stones and Aymeric Laporte have muscular problems and will have to watch from the sidelines, though both are back in training.
The influential Fernandinho continues to recover from the injury he picked up during the League Cup final, whilst fellow midfielder Kevin de Bruyne strained his hamstring during Saturday's 1-0 win at Bournemouth. Benjamin Mendy could make his long-awaited return to the side.
Right back Kiko Femenia is a doubt for Watford with a hamstring complaint, with the Spaniard set to have a late fitness test. He is the only concern for Gracia who otherwise has a full complement of players to choose from.
|Manchester City||Ederson; Danilo, Kompany, Otamendi, Zinchenko; Gundogan, B. Silva, D. Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Sane.|
|Watford||Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart, Mariappa, Holebas; Hughes, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra; Deulofeu, Deeney.|
Head to Head Record
Saturday's hosts have won their last nine fixtures against Watford, scoring 31 times in that period to their opposition's five. The Hornets have never beaten City in the Premier League era, last defeating them in 1989.
That victory is one of only six for the Vicarage Road side; City have emerged triumphant 16 times, with five draws between the two.
When the clubs last met in December it was the Sky Blues who edged it, limping to a slender 2-1 win after scores from Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez had given them a two-goal cushion. A late effort from Abdoulaye Doucoure set up a nervy finish for the champions, though they ultimately saw out the game.
Both teams go into the clash with their tails up. City have only tasted defeat once this calendar year, winning all 15 of their other matches in 2019. Similarly impressive, the visitors have secured 11 points from the last 15 available.
Though they laboured to narrow victories over Bournemouth and West Ham last week, the leaders are looking immaculate in defence, keeping clean sheets in four of their previous five in domestic competition.
Guardiola has praised his players for their durability and stamina as they continue to fight for every available honour. However, the dogged nature of their successes against the Hammers and the Cherries suggests they may be wearing themselves thin.
Andre Gray slid past Kasper Schmeichel late on against Leicester City on Sunday to snatch victory for Gracia's side who remain in the contention for European qualification. The manner of the result is sure to give them a boost as they face a tough trip to the Etihad.
This is how the pair have got on in their last five matches:
|Bournemouth 0-1 Manchester City (2/2)||Watford 2-1 Leicester (3/3)|
|Manchester City 1-0 West Ham (27/2)||Liverpool 5-0 Watford (27/2)|
|Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City (3-4 Pens) (24/2)||Cardiff City 1-5 Watford (22/2)|
|Schalke 2-3 Manchester City (20/2)||Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Watford (15/2)|
|Newport County 1-4 Manchester City (14/2)||Watford 1-0 Everton (9/2)|
City have appeared tired in recent games; two goals in three is uncharacteristic of this Guardiola team. However, they carved out plenty of opportunities in those games, suggesting that the scorelines may be somewhat anomalous.
The Hornets are a jubilant outfit right now and will be confident of capitalising on their City's perceived burnout. Significantly, though, they were trounced 5-0 when they went to Anfield in their last away fixture. That result may play on their minds against opposition of a similar calibre in the form of City.
Watford will offer their hosts a reasonable challenge, but may ultimately come up short in the North West.