Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 8 April 2017
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Kick off: 15:00
UK TV: Not on TV
Manchester City’s loss to league leaders Chelsea on Wednesday meant that the title is further away from the Blues than ever, with Pep Guardiola acknowledging on Friday that a top four finish is now the goal. Chelsea are a machine this year and appear too good to let a 14-point lead over the Citizens slip. The next step to ensure Champions League football for next season is the game against Hull, a team City have to be wary of considering the late run of form of the Tigers. So, what are the main talking points ahead of Hull’s visit on Saturday afternoon?
Looking Back & Ahead
Firstly, it’s important to say that City can take some positives from the 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday: Vincent Kompany is back and running, Englishman Fabian Delph has made a surprisingly good cameo against the league leaders and proved that he is able to contribute more than just banter on CityTV, and Sergio Aguero once again proved his haters wrong by scoring against a top-six side. Still, the Blues will consider the defeat to be a disappointment. Centre-back John Stones should have equalled the scoring late on in the game, and the overall finishing let City down once again in a match that could and should have ended differently. The game was, to a certain extent, an embodiment of the entire season: City were let down by poor finishing, individual errors, and, ultimately, by themselves. City will need to drastically improve the finishing as well as the defensive errors. The return of Vincent Kompany is likely to help – Stones looked a lot more assured with Kompany as a partner than with Otamendi next to him.
The Last Game
The last encounter between City and the Tigers took place on Boxing Day and saw City record a win in convincing fashion, seeing off Hull with 3-0 at the KCOM Stadium. Yaya Touré opened the scoring with a penalty in the 72nd minute, and later goals by substitute Kelechi Iheanacho (78′) and an own-goal by Hull captain Curtis Davies in stoppage time saw City win the game comfortably. It is interesting to consider how much the current City side has changed in comparison to the team that started on that cold Yorkshire evening. Claudio Bravo was still starting in goal and made an appearance in which he, remarkably, did not concede a goal, Nolito got the nod ahead of Iheanacho, and the Nigerian was still making regular appearances.
Hull deserve a lot of respect for their recent run of form, and underestimating the current side would be irresponsible. A lot of team’s recent success is associated with Portuguese manager Marco Silva, who arrived in January and introduced new spirit and players to a squad that seemed to be destined to go down. He has truly shifted the team’s fate, bringing in a new attacking spirit as well as more individual talent, for instance former Italian international Andrea Ranocchia, City youth product Omar Elabdellaoui, Alfred N’Diaye from Villarreal, Polish winger Kamil Grosicki and Everton outcast Oumar Niasse. All of them have improved the team massively, making them a much stronger unit than the one City saw off on Boxing Day. Centre-back Harry Maguire has also been a standout figure this year. The Englishman is expected to miss the clash against City due to injury.
They’ve consequently enjoyed a good run of form, winning pivotal games against Swansea and Middlesbrough as well as holding United to a draw and beating Liverpool. The 4-2 win against Boro might prove to be extra important considering the direct competition between the two sides at the bottom of the table. Boosted by their improved results, Hull are going to be very motivated coming into the match.
Hull has been in remarkably good form and I’m reasonably confident that they are going to stay in the league considering how much they have changed since Phelan was replaced. However, I think City’s individual quality should be enough to see them off, especially with Harry Maguire missing. It’s not going to be an easy game, but I’ll say 3-1 City.