Apr 5, 2014 at 12.45pm UK at ​Etihad Stadium
Man CityManchester City
4-1
Southampton
Toure (3' pen.), Nasri (45'), Dzeko (45'), Jovetic (80')
Fernandinho (44'), Garcia (68'), Toure (77')
FT(HT: 3-1)
Lambert (36' pen.)

Preview: Manchester City vs. Southampton

Sports Mole previews the Premier League clash between Man City and Southampton at the Etihad Stadium, where the Blues have only lost once domestically all season.

Manchester City's title challenge could be given the timely boost of Sergio Aguero returning from injury to be included in the squad to face Southampton on Saturday.

The influential Argentine striker has missed three weeks of action with a hamstring strain picked up in the Champions League last-16 first leg against Barcelona.

He admitted this week that he is wary of rushing back so as not to jeopardise his World Cup hopes, but reports on Thursday claimed that he was poised to be named in the 18 for the visit of the Saints.

In his absence, City's other forwards have scored only three times in eight games, although Yaya Toure's exploits in front of goal have kept them firmly in touch at the top of the table.

Manuel Pellegrini's side are four points behind new Premier League leaders Liverpool, having played two games fewer and knowing that a second championship in two years is still theirs for the taking.

Their opponents at the Etihad Stadium this weekend have had to deal with another week of speculation linking their boss and biggest names with moves away from Southampton in the summer.

Mauricio Pochettino has reportedly become Tottenham Hotspur's number one managerial target, while Liverpool maintain an interest in Luke Shaw and are believed to have joined the race for Adam Lallana.

Both will put these rumours to one side to start for the Saints in Manchester, but Maya Yoshida, Nathaniel Clyne and Kelvin Davis are missing, while Victor Wanyama faces a late fitness test.

Pochettino therefore may name an unchanged XI from the one that thrashed Newcastle United 4-0 at St Mary's Stadium, where Jay Rodriguez scored twice to enhance his England World Cup hopes.

Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin is also hopeful of making it to Brazil, but may have to be content with a place on the bench, with James Ward-Prowse retained in midfield alongside Steven Davis and Jack Cork.

With the recovering Aguero yet to reach full fitness, Edin Dzeko is likely to continue as City's lone striker, with support coming from a trio of attacking midfielders and Toure in an initial holding role.

James Milner may be recalled at the expense of Jesus Navas, should Pellegrini want to give Pablo Zabaleta some extra defensive protection against the marauding runs of Shaw down the Saints left.

Victory would take the visitors to within three points of English champions Manchester United, who are seventh in the table, but City have only lost once domestically at Eastlands all season.

Recent form

Man City: DWWWLL

Southampton: WLWWLL

Possible starting lineups

Man City: Hart; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Kompany, Clichy; Toure, Fernandinho; Milner, Silva, Nasri; Dzeko

Southampton: Boruc; Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw; Davis, Cork, Ward-Prowse; Lallana, Rodriguez, Lambert

Sports Mole says: 3-1

Newcastle United's English manager Alan Pardew gestures during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Stoke City at at St James' Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, northeast England on December 26, 2013
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City24212170185265
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd24165349163353
3Chelsea24155445162950
4Liverpool24138354292547
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs24136547222545
6Arsenal24126645311442
7Leicester CityLeicester249783632434
8Burnley249781921-234
9Everton2477102639-1328
10Watford2475123344-1126
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham2468103042-1226
12Bournemouth2467112536-1125
13Crystal Palace2467112237-1525
14Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2466121941-2224
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2465132234-1223
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2458111733-1623
17Stoke CityStoke2465132550-2523
18Southampton24410102435-1122
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom24311101931-1220
20Swansea CitySwansea2455141535-2020
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