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Manchester City's Troubling Road Form Runs Headlong into Recent Sunderland Woes

Aguero's proud pose here aptly sums up City's feelings about themselves these days.
Aguero's proud pose here aptly sums up City's feelings about themselves these days.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Phil KeidelContributor IINovember 8, 2013

Manchester City are justifiably feeling pretty swell about themselves.

The Sky Blues followed up a 7-0 embarrassment of Norwich City with a 5-2 domination of CSKA Moscow.

The former result established Costel Pantilimon as Manuel Pellegrini's starting keeper (for now). The latter put Manchester City through to the Champions League's Round of 16 for the first time in club history.

So plenty of verbal bouquets are being tossed about at the Etihad these days. Not surprisingly, many of them are being directed to Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo. The two strikers accounted for all five of their side's tallies against CSKA Moscow.

Samir Nasri recently told the Manchester Evening News that "Negredo and Aguero are really complete together because one is small and quick with good feet and the other one is just a beast who can keep the ball and score goals."

"For me Negredo and Aguero are the best," Nasri added with a flourish.

Heady days indeed. But have Manchester City looked at the schedule lately? They play at Sunderland this coming weekend.

The match looks easy enough. The Black Cats are 19th in the Premier League table, five points from safety and carrying a goal difference (minus-15) that is tied for worst in the league with 20th-place Crystal Palace.

Poyet seems to be having about as much fun as Di Canio did managing Sunderland.
Poyet seems to be having about as much fun as Di Canio did managing Sunderland.Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Further, Sunderland have already changed managers. Paolo Di Canio was sacked after Sunderland opened the season with four losses in five Premier League matches. That is the same success rate ("success" being a relative term) as new gaffer Gus Poyet has, er, enjoyed.

So Manchester City will just breeze into the Stadium of Light, collect three easy points and disperse for another international break (enough of those already, by the way) without a care in the world, right?

Maybe not. Grantland.com's Roger Bennett called Manchester City "the Premier League's most schizophrenic team" on this week's "Men in Blazers" podcast. Harsh, but true.

Manchester City have two disconcerting trends to overcome where this trip to Sunderland is concerned.

Somewhat famously, Manchester City's 2013-14 version are unstoppable at home and eminently beatable away from the Etihad.

Three times—at Cardiff City, at Aston Villa, at Chelsea—Manchester City have dropped points in the second half. That last loss at Chelsea cost Joe Hart his job.

Remarkably, in the Premier League this season Manchester City have a goal difference of plus-17 but a negative goal difference on the road.

On top of that, Manchester City's last three trips to the Stadium of Light have yielded serial 1-0 losses to the Black Cats. The last time Manchester City took a point from Sunderland there, Shay Given, Wayne Bridge and Craig Bellamy were all prominently involved.

As of this writing, Ladbrokes has Manchester City as a 2/5 favorite to win at Sunderland. A draw is 7/2 and a Sunderland win is 13/2. Manchester City are an even bigger road favorite than Everton are at cellar-dwelling Crystal Palace (8/15).

Given Manchester City's shaky road form this season and their recent history at Sunderland, though, the best advice is my usual advice.

Don't bet on it.

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