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Preview: Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Monday night's Premier League clash between champions Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, including team news and predictions.

Manchester City will be looking to close the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool back to four points when they host Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Etihad Stadium on Monday night.

The champions have made a perfect start to 2019 but take on a Wolves side that has fared very well against top-six opposition so far this season - including earning a point in the reverse fixture.

Man City

Pep Guardiola gives orders during the Premier League game between Manchester City and Liverpool on January 3, 2019© Reuters

After a December blip which saw Man City lose three times in the space of four Premier League games, it is safe to say that Pep Guardiola's side are now back to their fearsome best.

A rousing 2-1 win over Liverpool in their last league outing breathed new life into their hopes of retaining the title, and since then the English champions have run riot.

Back-to-back cup matches against lower-league teams at the Etihad Stadium always looked worrying for their opposition, but even in their worst fears Rotherham United and Burton Albion may not have expected 7-0 and 9-0 hammerings respectively.

City showcased their ruthless streak on both occasions, though, and one of the characteristics which has made them so impressive over the past season-and-a-half has been their ability to put teams outside the traditional top six to the sword.

It is what made successive defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester City either side of Christmas so surprising, and Guardiola will be just as wary of Wolves having already dropped points to them this season.

However, City are unbeaten in their last 34 home league games against promoted sides - a run which includes 30 wins and stretches all the way back to February 2007.

A whopping 16 goals without reply in their last two outings suggests that they will be a huge threat going forward as ever too, and City have scored at least twice in each of their last 12 Premier League home games.

However, it is at the other end where things must improve; Guardiola's side have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight league outings and have gone six in a row without one at home, which is their longest run since December 2015.

Ultimately it is that defensive record which sees them trail Liverpool by seven points following the Reds' 1-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, and City could start this match as low as third should Tottenham Hotspur beat Manchester United on Sunday.

Only a draw would be needed for City to regain second place should that be the case, but any dropped points in this season's title race are likely to be punished and so only a win will do once again for the champions.

Recent Premier League form: LWLLWW
Recent form (all competitions): LLWWWW


Nuno Espirito Santo gives instructions during the Premier League game between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea on December 5, 2018© Reuters

Such has been the inconsistent nature of Wolves' season that they may well be looking forward to matches like this more than they would a much easier home game on paper.

Premier League outings do not get much more daunting than a trip to the Etihad at the moment, but Wolves have an impressive record against top-six opposition this season.

Nuno Espirito Santo's side have amassed nine points from their seven such league games so far - winning two, drawing three and losing two - and they also overcame league leaders Liverpool in the FA Cup last Monday night.

No team outside the top six has fared better in those matches all season, and Wolves are one of only two clubs that Guardiola has failed to beat in his managerial career having played them at least twice - the other being Celtic.

It is against the teams Wolves are expected to beat that they have struggled this term; four of their eight league defeats have come against teams in the bottom eight, including being one of only two teams to lose to Huddersfield Town all season.

Such mixed form has left Wolves sitting in mid-table, and they could be in the bottom half by the time they kick off on Monday should either Everton or Bournemouth win their Premier League clash on Sunday.

Nuno's side are still only three points off seventh place, though, and it is important to remember that they were only promoted last summer so a top-half finish must be regarded as a decent achievement.

Wolves have won just one of their last four league games going into this one and were beaten 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace in their last such outing, leaving them in danger of falling to successive defeats for the first time since November.

As difficult a place as the Etihad is to come, Wolves may be happy to be back on the road having picked up more points away from home than they have at Molineux so far this season.

Indeed, Nuno's side have only lost of two of their last nine league games on their travels and beat Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in their most recent one, while they have also taken points off Manchester United and Arsenal away from home this season.

Should they add the Etihad to that list with a victory on Monday night then it would be the first time since 1981 that they have won back-to-back away games in the same top-flight season.

Recent Premier League form: WWLDWL
Recent form (all competitions): WLDWLW

Team News

Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring the opener during the Premier League game between Manchester City and Liverpool on January 3, 2019© Reuters

Sergio Aguero has been struggling with illness since the win over Liverpool earlier this month, but he is expected to be ready to return for this match.

Vincent Kompany also picked up a muscle problem against the Reds and will be given a late fitness test, although Guardiola is unlikely to take any risks with the captain.

Benjamin Mendy and Claudio Bravo remain sidelined, but Kevin De Bruyne is now back fit and playing, and he could start alongside David Silva and Fernandinho in the midfield three.

The likes of Ederson, Raheem Sterling and John Stones are also expected to return after being left out for the EFL Cup destruction of Burton Albion in midweek.

Wolves will also welcome first-team players back after shuffling their pack for the FA Cup win over Liverpool, with Rui Patricio, Matt Doherty and Romain Saiss among those set to be recalled.

Diogo Jota returned in that game to leave Wolves with no injury concerns, although he faces competition from Adama Traore to keep his place in the side.

Man City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Danilo, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, D Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane

Wolves possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Saiss, Jonny; Traore, Jimenez

Head To Head

Man City are unbeaten in their last six meetings with Wolves across all competitions, although they saw their five-match winning streak ended by a 1-1 draw in August's reverse fixture.

Wolves' only win in their last 10 games against City came in October 2010, when Emmanuel Adebayor's penalty was cancelled out by goals from Nenad Milijas and Dave Edwards.

Not since December 1979 have Wolves won a top-flight game away to Man City, though, losing five of their six such meetings since.

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We say: Man City 3-1 Wolves

Wolves are probably the one team outside the top six who would be most fancied to get something at the Etihad, but Man City have roared back to form in sensational fashion recently and they know that only a win will do after Liverpool's triumph on Saturday.

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Who will win Monday night's Premier League clash between Man City and Wolves?

Man City
Man City
Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring the opener during the Premier League game between Manchester City and Liverpool on January 3, 2019
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