- Manchester City host Leicester City in the Premier League on Boxing Day (3pm kick-off)
- The Athletic's Sam Lee has provided a lowdown on the current English champions
- He believes the Citizens are showing all the signs they can retain their title
- Live coverage of the game begins at 1:30pm on LCFC Radio on Sunday
A 7-0 triumph over Leeds United at Etihad Stadium was followed by a 4-0 away success at Newcastle United over recent weeks, propelling Pep Guardiola's side to a four-point lead at the summit. Their next test will be provided by the Foxes in Manchester on Sunday (3pm kick-off).
Throughout the campaign so far, Man City have been supremely competent defensively, but relatively goal-shy by their own fearsome standards. That 11-goal blitz in their last two outings, though, provides a serious reminder to their competitors about the attacking quality at Guardiola's disposal.
"They’ve started scoring a lot of their chances now," Lee told LCFC Radio's Matchday Live show. "Up until the last couple of games, I think they had scored fewer than Liverpool and Chelsea. You could say they weren’t especially clinical, but in the last two games they’ve scored 11 goals.
"They’ve now got the best goal difference in the league as well. That probably gives a fairer reflection of where they are this season in terms of how dangerous they are and in creating chances. They are solid defensively, teams have to work very hard to get a good chance against Man City.
"The chances they give away tend to be quite speculative. Up until now, they’re not giving away man one-on-ones. They’re not giving away big chances in the middle of the box in front of the goal. It’s all from long range.
Interestingly, as much we might think it’s working pretty well and they got to a Champions League Final without a striker, as far as I know, Pep Guardiola is still desperate to get that striker in.Sam Lee The Athletic
"I don’t think Man City have ever had as many clean sheets at this stage of a season as they do now. They’re very solid defensively and, as I say, in attack, they’ve started to put their chances away. Overall, it makes them such a difficult team to face."
Man City are operating without a recognised striker in many of their matches in 2021/22, but Lee believes Guardiola is determined to add one to his ranks to provide yet another offensive threat. In the meantime, however, utilising midfielders in the no.9 role has worked well for the reigning champions.
"They’ve got so many technically gifted midfielders," Lee added. "That has got huge plus points but it’s also got some drawbacks. The plus points are that is helps them dominate possession so well. They’re not leaving spaces because they can pass it around between them with such high speed.
"It helps them control games. Sometimes, they put [Raheem] Sterling or [Ferran] Torres up in attack, often it’s like a false nine, so Phil Foden or Kevin De Bruyne or Bernardo Silva. They can drop deep and then they become another midfielder, so it helps them control the game.
"The downside is they are not clinical finishers, they’re not a Jamie Vardy, or even a Kelechi Iheanacho. They’re incredibly clinical and they can be expected to get 20 goals a season. If you’re brought up as a midfielder, you don’t necessarily have those qualities, so that’s the downside.
"That’s why, in some games, they don’t convert their chances. If you take the last two games out of it, you would probably see that. They had a modest goal tally by Man City’s standards, certainly compared to Liverpool and Chelsea. It does mean the threat comes from everywhere, though.
Pep Guardiola is bidding to win a fourth Premier League title with Manchester City.
"Interestingly, as much we might think it’s working pretty well and they got to a Champions League Final without a striker, as far as I know, Pep Guardiola is still desperate to get that striker in.
"Obviously, if they did, and they can still play with this measure of control and have someone who can bang in 20-30 goals, they’d be even scarier."
It promises to be a thrilling title race in 2021/22 with Liverpool and Chelsea seeming, at present, to be Man City's primary challengers. The Etihad Stadium club have the advantage for now, with a four-point gap at the top, but Lee says nobody is getting ahead of themselves.
"They’re four points clear and Liverpool have just dropped points," he explained. "Chelsea have been dropping points and Man City have won their last eight games in a row in the league, so at this stage of the season, of course [they’re title favourites], but there’s such a long way to go.
"Liverpool are such a great team. Being four points clear of them, that lead can easily be wiped out. If Man City were to lose against a Leicester side who have done them a lot of damage over the years, which is possible, and if Liverpool win, all of a sudden, it’s tighter.
"Chelsea’s dip in form might go on, or come back in future, but Liverpool have got the consistency to match Man City. We’re still going to have, I think, a really close title race."
It’s no surprise that Leicester have got good results against Man City over the years, anything could happen on Sunday, but in terms of how Man City are playing at the moment, Man City fans will be confident. You have to say it’s with good reason.Sam Lee The Athletic
Despite losing to Leicester 5-2 last season at home, and falling to a 1-0 reverse in the FA Community Shield back in August, Man City's record against the Foxes is still strong on the whole. That, alongside their improving attacking displays, will give their supporters confidence, says Lee.
"Things are looking good so the confidence will be there," he continued. "Also, when Leicester won the league, that was at Etihad Stadium, but that was under Manuel Pellegrini and I think, despite the fact Leicester have a good record, it’s not really been at Etihad Stadium. That confidence is still there.
"It was only last season Leicester scored five there and, if Man City start leaving spaces, Leicester are so good at exploiting those and getting forward. That really causes Man City problems. We saw that last season.
"They are usually defensively solid against Man City and they have the technical quality to break through and work the spaces. The issue for Leicester now is that Man City have sorted all of that out. They’re not leaving so many spaces, they’re not flooding forward to attack and leaving themselves exposed behind.
"It’s no surprise that Leicester have got good results against Man City over the years, anything could happen on Sunday, but in terms of how Man City are playing at the moment, Man City fans will be confident. You have to say it’s with good reason."
All times GMT.
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