Manchester City host an in-form Leicester City in the third matchday of the Premier League. Man City registered a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Wolverhampton in their opening match of the season. Meanwhile, Leicester won both of their matches so far, scoring seven goals and conceding only two in the process.

Even though Manchester City are on a three-match winning streak against the Foxes, Leicester have always been a very difficult opponent for them. Man City cannot afford to lose points from these kinds of matches to have any chance of dethroning Liverpool. On the other hand, Leicester will be keen to make a huge statement with a positive result against the Citizens

Considering the quality of players in both teams, we can expect an intense game of the highest quality. This tactical analysis will give you a preview into one of the most exciting matchups in the English top flight. 

Predicted lineups

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): 

Ederson; Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte, Nathan Aké, Benjamin Mendy; Fernandinho, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne; Phil Foden, Liam Delap, Raheem Sterling.

Leicester City (4-1-4-1):

Kasper Schmeichel; James Justin, Jonny Evans, Caglar Söyüncü, Timothy Castagne; Nampalys Mendy, Ayoze Pérez, Youri Tielemans; Dennis Praet, Harvey Barnes, Jamie Vardy.

Man City have a few important players sidelined due to injury, including the likes Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Agüero, İlkay Gündoğan, Bernardo Silva and João Cancelo. With none of their first team strikers available for the match, Guardiola might be forced to draft in academy prospect –  Liam Delap. Delap started in their cup tie against Bournemouth and capped it off with a brilliantly taken goal. Meanwhile, Leicester have two key players missing, with both Ricardo Pereira and Wilfred Ndidi not expected to return soon. 

Pep Guardiola is expected to line them up in a similar setup to their win against Wolves. Laporte is set to return and will surely replace John Stones in the starting XI. Meanwhile, Riyad Mahrez, despite starting in the EFL Cup against Bournemouth, will be starting on the bench as Phil Foden is in excellent form at the moment. 

Brendan Rodgers won’t be making any significant changes to the starting XI from their win against Burnley. Jonny Evans is set to return and will partner Söyüncü at the heart of the defence. Even though James Maddison started in the EFL Cup tie against Arsenal, he will be relegated to the bench as Praet has been in splendid form in the last two matches.

Manchester City attack and Leicester low-block

Manchester City are one of the most dynamic attacking team in Europe. They scored the most goals in the division last season with 102 goals – 17 goals ahead of Liverpool. As a result of this, most teams will try to sit back and cede possession when playing against them. Leicester are expected to do the same.

How will Manchester City break down the mid-low blocks? The following analysis will give us an insight into some of their movements and tactics while attacking.

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Manchester City always builds their attack from the back exploiting the supreme distribution skills of their backline – including the goalkeeper. Here we can see their centre-backs dropping deep and being supported by both Rodri and Fernandinho. The two defensive midfielders bridge the gap between their attack and defence and consistently drop deep to open up passing lanes. This allows their full-backs to push upfield.

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tacticsPremier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Manchester City’s wide forwards move infield and dragging the opposition full-backs along with them to create space for the Manchester City’s full-backs to attack. In two of the above situations, we can see Mendy making the runs past the opposition full-backs. This results in either a crossing opportunity or opens up space for a cut-back to the edge of the box.

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tacticsPremier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Manchester City’s forwards are adept at breaking the lines with their perfectly timed movements. This when combined with the top-quality distribution skills of their players, makes it extremely difficult for the opposition to defend. 

As we can see in the above three situations, we can see three different scenarios over which the forward is moving into the space between the centre-back and full-back. The third one shows the buildup to their winner against Leicester in the last meeting between the sides.

Man City thrives on mistakes by the opposition which might look minute or inconsequential initially. They keep moving the ball, waiting for gaps to open up in the defensive line. The vision of players like Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, when combined with the movement and speed of their forwards, will open up most defences in Europe with ease. Leicester will need utmost concentration from their backline to keep out Guardiola’s well-oiled machine. 

The Kevin De Bruyne factor

De Bruyne is the fulcrum of Manchester City’s attack. He is given the freedom to roam with most of their attacks flowing through him. He orchestrates their offence by dropping deep, popping up in half-spaces or picking up the forwards’ runs with his sublime vision. De Bruyne had four shots on target, three key passes, four shot-assists, five recoveries in the opposition half, and five successful dribbles against Wolves.

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

The above sequence shows the buildup to their second goal against Wolves. De Bruyne splits the defence with an exquisite through ball to Sterling who then squares it back for Foden to score.

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Here we can see De Bruyne moving into the vacant space in front of the Wolves’ box. If Foden passes it to him, he can either have a shot at goal or pick out Sterling or Jesus.

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

The above situation shows the play which results in the penalty decision against Wolves. De Bruyne makes a run between the Wolves’ full-back and centre-back with Foden passing the ball down the channel for him. De Bruyne then draws the foul from the Wolves’ centre-back inside the penalty area before scoring from the spot himself.

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Mendy has pushed up and De Bruyne drops deep to link up play. He then gives a pinpoint long ball pass for Sterling who can be seen making a run and this almost resulted in their opening goal against Wolves. 

City’s high pressure and Leicester’s counter-attack

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Manchester City press high up the pitch and are one of the best counter-pressing teams in Europe. They score a huge amount of goals from the resulting turnovers. Against Wolves, they had a PPDA of 13.2 and 37 recoveries in the opposition half with five of them resulting in a shot on goal.

As we can see from the average positions of their players during the match against Wolves, they have a high defensive line with their full-backs pushing up to help in pressing the opposition. Rodri and Fernandino are tasked with covering for the full-backs and also to intercept any attacks through the middle. How successful they can be in covering the space at the back is an altogether different question.

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

The high defensive line has been one of their biggest weak points over the past few seasons. Lyon exploited this to knock them out of the UEFA Champions League and Wolves constantly tried to exploit this space. As we can see from the above situations, the ball over the top of the defence carves them open. All of the above situations resulted in excellent scoring chances for Wolves. Had they been more clinical in finishing those chances, the 3-1 scoreline would have looked much different.

Jamie Vardy is at his best when he has space to make these runs. Manchester City’s centre-backs will find it difficult to match the pace of Vardy. He has scored six goals in nine appearances against Guardiola’s Manchester City including a hat-trick in their first encounter. 

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Premier League 2020/21: Manchester City vs Leicester City – tactical preview tactics

Both of the above situations shows Vardy beating Manchester City’s offside trap during their two matches last season. He hit the post in the first sequence and scored in the second one.

With the pace of Vardy and Barnes at Leicester’s disposal, exploiting Manchester City’s high line is their best route to goal. If Leicester defenders/midfielders can be successful in feeding the forwards when they make these runs, Ederson will surely have a busy night in goal.

Conclusion

Manchester City are expected to dominate possession and will certainly create enough scoring chances. But the question marks regarding their defensive capabilities which lingered throughout the last few seasons and have strengthened despite their 3-1 victory over Wolves.

Ever since Guardiola took charge of the blues from Manchester, they have spent a fortune in reinforcing their backline. This Leicester side will be an important test to their defensive capabilities this season, especially against counter-attacking setups with pacey forwards. 

Even though Manchester City are the bookies’ favourites to win, Leicester have enough quality and firepower to make life difficult for the hosts. With two of the best managers in the division going head-to-head, we can expect an exciting matchup.