Hoping to string together their first consecutive Premier League wins, Manchester City host Sunderland at Etihad Stadium. Manchester City, coming off a home match draw against Borussia Dortmund Wednesday, concede the momentum advantage to their traveling foes.
Steven Fletcher's fifth goal in four games led Sunderland to their first Premier League victory of the season with a 1-0 victory over Wigan. If he can continue to be a scoring force, Sunderland may claim another three points.
However, standing between Sunderland's strikers and the net is goalkeeper Joe Hart. One of the only sources of momentum the reigning champions have going into the match is Hart's performance. If not for him, City would not have escaped Dortmund with a draw.
City have yet to get going this season. Vincent Kompany and Mario Balotelli, to name two, haven't stepped up as the leading players they're expected to be. That's not to say City won't bounce back and show why they're the champions, though.
Sunderland were a thorn in the side of City last season. If everything clicks—Kompany and Balotelli play to their full potential and Hart puts on another clinic in the goal—expect City to decisively capture three points.
Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England.
When: October 6, 2012. 7:45 a.m. ET.
TV/Live Stream: ESPN 2, ESPN3.
Manchester City: Can they revive their defense?
In three of six games this season, Manchester City have allowed more than one goal. Granted, they've been able to have three-goal games. Even so, Sunderland haven't been behind by more than one goal yet this season, so stopping Sunderland from scoring is imperative.
The overall inconsistency of City is illustrated by their inability to string together multiple wins. They've already surrendered as many points at home as they did all last season.
Captain Vincent Kompany has a reputation as a reliable defender. He's been all but that this season.Kompany committed 31 fouls in 30 games last season. In six games this season, he's already committed 12—almost doubling his fouls committed per-game ratio.
One thing that makes Joe Hart's performance even more impressive is how well he's played in light of City's terrible defense. City can't continue to rely on Hart's performance. While he's one of the world's best goalkeepers, he needs a squad of dependable defenders in front of him.
Sunderland: Someone other than Steven Fletcher has to step up
Steven Fletcher has been the bread and butter of Sunderland's offense this season. He's scored all five of the club's goals.
Fletcher's game has been phenomenal and continuing to contribute offensively is key to the club's future success. However, other players have to step up and contribute offensively. Fletcher can't go much longer as the only player scoring goals.
James McClean and Craig Gardner are two players who are bound to start scoring goals for Sunderland. Both have been testing the opposition's goalkeeper. Neither has anything to show for it, though.
McClean scored five goals and assisted on two in 20 Premier League games last season. Gardner only scored thrice in 22 starts. At this rate, though, any offensive contribution is welcomed.
Manchester City are the reigning champions. It's only a matter of time before Kompany starts being the star player he is. Hart will continue to carry the team by recording a shutout. Fletcher doesn't get enough good opportunities to get one past Hart.
City wins 1-0.