Predicted Watford line-up to face Manchester City in the Premier League
Watford will travel to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday to spring a surprise against defending Premier League champions Manchester City.
The Hornets are in a rich vein of form and have won four of their last five matches as they sit eighth in the Premier League table. Javi Gracia’s men come into the game of the back of a 2-1 victory over Leicester City.
Manchester City are also in rollicking form and are top of the table, having a slender one-point lead over second-place Liverpool.
Gracia does not have any fresh injury concerns following the victory over Leicester City last weekend.
Probable Watford XI
Manager: Javi Gracia
Ben Foster (GK)
Foster has been in excellent form this campaign and should keep his place in goal at the weekend.
Daryl Janmaat (RB)
Janmaat is an attacking right-back who’ll look to cause problems to Manchester City with his overlapping runs and crossing abilities.
Adrian Mariappa (CB)
Mariappa is a physical, no-nonsense defender who will have to be extra vigilant against City’s nippy attackers.
Craig Cathcart (CB)
Cathcart has nailed down a regular place in the Watford backline with consistent performances. He is a certain starter against City.
Jose Holebas (LB)
His deliveries from set-pieces could cause some problems for the hosts on Sunday. The ageing Holebas will look to exploit little spaces on the left and send crosses inside the box.
Abdoulaye Doucoure (CM)
Doucoure is a powerful midfielder, known for his ability in the air and pick a pass. He will need to have a solid game to give the Hornets hopes of winning at City.
Etienne Capoue (CM)
Capoue is another physically blessed midfielder who is expected to partner Doucoure against City at the weekend.
Will Hughes (RM)
A technically-gifted, creative player, Hughes loves to pick up pockets of spaces and use his vision to hurt the teams. He is expected to keep his place in the team.
Roberto Pereyra (LM)
Pereyra brings a lot of invention and flair to the Watford attack, capable of turning the game in a flash. He will aim to get on the score sheet on Sunday.
Gerard Deulofeu (RS)
Deulofeu has shone at Watford this season, impressing with his pace, dribbling skills and intelligent movement in the final third.
Troy Deeney (LS)
Deeney will have a bigger role to play if the Hornets are to cause an upset at the Etihad.
Nottingham Forest’s audacious swoop for this 20-year-old PL star would push Pantilimon for the No.1 role
Nottingham Forest Opinion: Arijanet Muric could push Pantilimon for the No.1 role at the City Ground
According to Nottinghamshire Live, Nottingham Forest have been credited with an interest in Man City shot-stopper Arijanet Muric, with reports claiming that manager Martin O’Neill is keen to add another goalkeeper to his ranks this summer.
Nottinghamshire Live understands that Martin O’Neill and Forest’s goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh watched the 20-year-old in action for Kosova against Bulgaria last weekend and they were left impressed by the youngster’s performance in his nation’s 3-2 triumph.
The same source claims that Man City manager Pep Guardiola is open to sending Muric out on loan this summer to allow him to gain more first-team exposure in the Championship.
Born in Switzerland to parents of Kosovan heritage, Muric played for Grasshoppers and FC Zurich at the youth level before joining Man City’s youth ranks back in 2015.
The youngster was pretty much an unknown entity prior to the last season but he is currently regarded as one of the brightest emerging prospects in the ranks at the Etihad.
Muric was initially shipped out on loan to Eredivisie side NAC Breda last summer but Man City recalled after a month to act as the understudy to No.1 Ederson Moraes following a long-term injury to veteran Claudio Bravo.
The 20-year-old earned his first-team debut for the Citizens in the victory over Oxford United in the third round of the 2018-19 EFL Cup and he subsequently went on to feature in five games in that competition before being replaced by Ederson in the finals, as City claimed silverware at the cost of Chelsea.
Muric was the penalty-shootout hero in the quarter-final victory against Leicester City and his goalkeeping heroics earned him plenty of plaudits from the fans and pundits alike.
Having featured initially for Montenegro at the U-21 level, Muric switched his international allegiance to Kosovo and made his senior international debut against Azerbaijan in the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League. His metaphoric rise at Man City has seen him cement his place as the No.1 for Kosova on the international front and one would expect him to continue in that role for years to come.
To put things into perspective, Nottingham Forest might have missed out on a playoff spot in the Championship this past season but they finished the campaign with one of the best defensive records in the division.
Their tally of 61 goals wasn’t enough for them to make the cut to the playoffs, and while O’Neill needs to add more firepower to his attack following the departure of loanees Diogo Goncalves and Gil Dias, bringing in Arijanet Muric on loan won’t do Forest much harm.
Costel Pantilimon was the undisputed No.1 between the sticks at the City Ground the last term and the Romanian international enjoyed a good run with the gloves, registering as many as 15 clean sheets in 44 outings. 34-year-old Luke Steele made 7 appearances in all competitions but it is clear from O’Neill’s interest in Muric that he wants to provide Pantilimon with more competition.
Having featured in the Premier League for Man City, Sunderland and Watford earlier in his career, Pantilimon continues to be one of the high-profile shot-stoppers in the Championship.
However, Muric has also shown strong signs of promise at Man City and he certainly has the quality to challenge the 32-year-old for a first-team role next season, whilst Forest can also look at him as a useful back-up and an upgrade on Steele.
Either way, increasing competition for places between the sticks should not hurt Forest.
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To conclude, this is a deal that looks likely to happen and Forest should definitely go ahead with this one in a bid to add more depth and quality to their goalkeeping options.
Man City would get closer to achieving success in Europe by signing this solid 27-year-old defender with £32m buyout clause
Manchester City Opinion: Why the Cityzens should sign Kostas Manolas?
According to Italian publication Corriere dello Sport, Manchester City are looking to beat Arsenal to the signing of AS Roma defender Kostas Manolas. (h/t The Metro)
The Greece international, 27, moved to AS Roma from Olympiacos in 2014 and has since established himself as one of the most consistent defenders in Serie A. However, he is one of a number of players tipped to depart the Italian capital following Roma’s failure to secure Champions League football next term.
Arsenal have been long linked with the 27-year-old, but Manchester City are now very much interested in signing him. The report claims that Kostas Manolas has an attainable release clause of £32m, which is perhaps why he’s attracted the attention of a number of big European clubs.
City manager Pep Guardiola needs to sign a central defender this summer following the departure of Vincent Kompany, who has become the player-manager of his former club Anderlecht after the expiry of his contract at the Etihad. There are also long-term doubts over the futures of Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala, who could both leave this summer for the right price.
Should Otamendi and Mangala also leave, Guardiola will be left with only Aymeric Laporte and John Stones as options in central defence. So, signing a central defender has to be priority for Manchester City to put pressure on Laporte and Stones going into the new season.
Kostas Manolas could be the answer to City’s defensive problems. Powerful, quick and composed on the ball, the Greek personifies the modern-day centre-half. He can spray passes with ease and drive forward with the ball at his feet before making a smart release to one of his teammates. That makes him perfect for Guardiola’s system.
The 27-year-old is robust and no-nonsense when required, but his biggest asset is the way he reads the game. Manolas is a tenacious tackler and uses his aggression, sheer strength and power to recover possession. He likes to come off his line to challenge the attackers but he knows how to balance that with his composure and concentration.
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As mentioned earlier, the former Olympiakos star is extremely composed on the ball which would help him quickly integrate into Guardiola’s style of play at City. Not to forget, the Greece international has solid European experience as well which could prove invaluable for Guardiola’s side keen to win the Champions League.
At 27, Manolas has likely entered the prime years of his career. Hence, it would be a smart idea for Guardiola to bring in the Greek to increase competition for places at the back.
Man City’s midfield would be in safe hands if they sign this £4.43m-rated whizkid to bolster long-term growth
Man City Opinion: Citizens should groom Lucien Agoume as a future first-team player
According to the Daily Star, reigning Premier League champions Man City have been credited with an interest in French whizkid Lucien Agoume, with reports claiming that the 17-year-old starlet is eyeing for a move to a bigger club.
Agoume, who currently plies his trade with Sochaux in the French second-tier, only broke into the first team from the reserves this past season, but he has already made eyeballs turn in his debut season at the senior level.
The 17-year-old has earned rave reviews from various scouts and pundits across the globe and a move elsewhere to any top European club looks very much likely to materialize this summer. Agoume made his Ligue 2 debut against Troyes back in October last year and finished the season with 16 appearances for Sochaux in all competitions.
Daily Star understands that Barcelona, RB Leipzig and Ligue 1 champions PSG have been credited with an interest in the emerging star, although Man City and Serie A heavyweights Inter Milan are believed to be the clubs pushing hardest for Agoume.
The same source claims that the 17-year-old has only one year left on his current contract at Sochaux and he is unlikely to sign an extension, with so many elite clubs circling around like sharks.
Man City are reportedly looking to get the upper hand in the race by offering Sochaux a player on loan in a part-exchange deal for the 17-year-old wonderkid, with reports claiming that Agoume might be available for a fee of around £4.43 million this summer. (h/t Daily Star)
Born in Yaounde, Cameroon, Lucien Agoume migrated to France as a kid and joined Sochaux at the youth level following a brief stint at Racing Besancon in the lower division. He is already a youth international for France, having represented his nation at U-16 and U-17 levels.
Essentially a central midfielder by trade, Agoume’s physicality and style of play have earned him comparisons to French World Cup winner and Man United star Paul Pogba.
Standing at 6ft. 1 inch with a well-built frame, the 17-year-old has shown a level of maturity that belies his tender years in all aspects of his game, which is probably why he is such a hot prospect despite only making a handful of appearances for Sochaux in the French second-tier.
Agoume has a wonderful technique for a player of his age and his incredible range of passing and composure in possession certainly defy his tender years. Noted for his ability to play the ball off the ground, the 17-year-old has the skill set and the speed of thought to switch the play with guided missile-like accuracy.
While he rarely seems to misplace a pass, Agoume has also showcased the ability to combine his physicality with his technique to hold on to the ball in the middle of the park, which allows him that split second more to pick out the right pass.
Not only that, the Frenchman has carved out a reputation for himself as a wonderful athlete, having impressed with his tireless running, agility and sharpness on and off the ball over the course of his debut season in Ligue 2. Agoume is also a good reader of the game and he is more than capable of cutting out attacks with crucial interventions, whilst also showcasing the awareness to deal with the transitions in play.
To put things into perspective, Lucien Agoume is head and shoulders above most of the young players in the same mould and Man City could have a gem on their hands in the future should they manage to win the race for the incredibly talented French whizkid this summer.
The Citizens are likely to look at marquee signings this summer but they should also look to invest in talented youngsters to build a platform for continued success.
City made the headlines with the acquisition of Croatian starlet Ante Palaversa from Hajduk Split back in January, while Brahim Diaz left for Real Madrid. They have lost another promising youngster named Rabbi Matondo in recent times and the arrival of Lucien Agoume should increase competition for places in the youth ranks.
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Phil Foden’s metaphoric rise in a clear indication of the amount of effort that City have put in towards the development of their youngsters in recent times.
Hence, it won’t be a bad idea for them to bring in Agoume and groom him as a future first-team player, with the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva and Fernandinho all nearing the end of their time at the Etihad.
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