Manchester City have set their sights on reclaiming the Premier League title. After an impressive showing against Newcastle in the season opener on Monday, they now turn their attention to one of the promoted clubs, Cardiff City.
The Sky Blues finished 11 points off the championship pace set by Manchester United last term. But with their rivals struggling to secure signings and City making a couple of key additions—notably Fernandinho and Stevan Jovetic—expectations are on the rise.
Cardiff clearly have a different set of goals for the campaign. While staying in the top flight is obviously atop the list, the Bluebirds need to elevate their level of play after a lackluster 2-0 loss to West Ham last weekend.
There's obviously plenty of work to do.
City can't afford to look past this match. Although they hold a significant advantage on paper, Cardiff should be motivated as they return home. Let's check out all the key viewing information for the clash, followed by a preview and prediction.
Where: Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales
When: Sunday, Aug. 25 at 11 a.m. ET (4 p.m. BST)
Watch: Premier League Extra Time and Sky Sports 1
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Chances (via Bloomberg Sports)
Manchester City: 68.6%
Cardiff City: 11.2%
Cardiff City Player to Watch: Craig Bellamy
The former Manchester City forward has taken on an important role for the Bluebirds. He's the club's veteran leader. Somebody younger players can look up to throughout the campaign, especially when things aren't going according to plan.
Bellamy was never the most dynamic attacking threat, but a combination of pace and work rate allowed him to make an impact for multiple clubs during his career. Even if he's lost a step at age 34, he's still a key piece in the short term for Cardiff.
Although he knows his current squad faces an uphill battle against his former club, he can help take some of the pressure off by holding the ball up top and trying to at least limit City's possession advantage. It's a match where his experience will come in handy.
Manchester City Player to Watch: Joe Hart
Hart remains a key piece of the puzzle for Manchester City despite a couple of dips in form last season. The 26-year-old goalkeeper was one of the driving forces behind the club's title two seasons ago, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him return to that level.
He got the new campaign off to a perfect start, earning a clean sheet against Newcastle. Although he wasn't called into action often, he controlled his area well and made sure his back line was on the same page as the defenders continued to rebuild chemistry.
His task could get more tricky against Cardiff. Not because the Bluebirds are particularly dangerous on the attack, but rather mounting defensive concerns for City. Micah Richards and Vincent Kompany are both dealing with injury issues, meaning there will likely be a patchwork back line in front of Hart.
Key Matchup to Watch: Steven Caulker vs. Sergio Aguero
Steven Caulker is being thrown right into the fire by Cardiff after arriving from Tottenham. The young centre-back possesses plenty of upside, but he's still a raw talent, so there will probably be plenty of ups and downs throughout the season.
The experience he gains is the key, though.
Matches against top clubs like City, which sport multiple attacking options who are going to test him at every opportunity, will expose his weakness. At the same time, he would have no chance to reach his potential without the opportunity to play at a high level.
Sergio Aguero is the player he should worry most about on Sunday. The striker scored in the Sky Blues' opener after netting 47 goals across all competitions over the past two seasons. Once Jovetic gets up to full speed, they will form a exciting attacking duo for City.
Manchester City 3, Cardiff City 0