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Good afternoon everybody. You’re very welcome along to our minute-by-minute liveblog of today’s Premier League meeting between Manchester City and Watford at the Etihad.

Nine games to go. There are just nine more games remaining in this year’s intriguing, pulsating title race.

Pep Guardiola’s men can stretch their lead at the top of the table to four points with a win against Watford today, applying pressure on Liverpool who take on Burnley at Anfield tomorrow.

There has been a decisive swing in the race for the title over the last month, with Jurgen Klopp’s side dropping points to all of Leicester, West Ham, Manchester United and Everton since the end of January giving City a one-point advantage.

Manchester City v Huddersfield Town - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Source: Martin Rickett

Where Liverpool once enjoyed a seven point lead, now their destiny is out of their own hands as Guardiola’s defending champions lead the chase at the summit with two months to go.

Today City face a Watford side which has genuinely impressed this season. They currently occupy 8th place and, on top of that, have an FA Cup quarter-final to look forward to as well next Saturday at home to Crystal Palace.

It’s been a great season at Vicarage Road in 2018/19, and Javi Gracia’s charges will be hoping to do Liverpool fans a favour by causing an upset. All that said, this is a Watford side which suffered a 5-0 humiliation at Anfield just over a week ago.

You wouldn’t rule out a similar scoreline at the Etihad today if Man City are in the mood. Stick with us, kick-off is coming up in an hour’s time at 5.30pm, with today’s game live on BT Sport 1 if you are near a TV set.

Let’s get started with the team news…

TEAM NEWS: Pep Guardiola makes two changes from the side which beat Bournemouth 1-0 last weekend.

Goalscorer that day off the bench Riyad Mahrez starts on the wing, with Bernardo Silva dropping into midfield to replace the injured Kevin De Bruyne.

Captain Vincent Kompany is also handed a start, replacing John Stones at centre back.

Javi Gracia, meanwhile, has opted for an almost entire switch-up from his starting XI that beat Leicester City on Sunday afternoon.

He makes a grand total of seven changes for today’s visit to the Etihad.

Miguel Britos, Christian Kabasele, Adam Masina, Kiko Femenia, Tom Cleverley, Andre Gray and Isaac Success replace Adrian Mariappa, Craig Cathcart, Jose Holebas, Will Hughes, Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu and Troy Deeney.

Man City: Ederson, Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Zinchenko, Bernardo Silva, Gundogan, Silva, Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling.

Substitutes: Danilo, Laporte, Delph, Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Foden, Muric.

Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Britos, Kabasele, Masina, Capoue, Doucoure, Femenia, Cleverley, Gray, Success.

Substitutes: Gomes, Deulofeu, Deeney, Sema, Cathcart, Quina, Holebas.

Right, half an hour to go before we get underway. How do we see this one unfolding? Let us know below.


Poll Results:

Man City win (104)
Surely a draw (33)
Watford win (15)



What the manager’s have said…

Pep Guardiola: ”It is one of the toughest games we have in the last nine games. They have physicality, quality one on one, they are strong in the air, well organised.

“It’s the last game before 21 days without the Premier League, before the international break. At home it’s massively important for us to take our points.”

Javi Gracia: ”You know City have high-quality players, a very good squad and maybe you have to do perfect defensive work.

“You have less possession than them, for sure, and you have to manage your possession to create some chances to score. Do very good defensive work and at the end, if you do it, you have some options to get a good result.”

Some pre-game reading material ahead of kick-off:

3Mins

Plenty of early possession for the hosts already. It does seem like Javi Gracia has prioritised the FA Cup with his selection today, making seven changes. His side welcome Crystal Palace to Vicarage Road in seven days’ time.

4Mins

Man City are imposing a very, very high defensive line as they take up as much space as possible across that vast Etihad surface. Nicolas Otamendi picks up possession just inside his own half, but is given the time and space to venture forward and have a go at goal. It’s a strong effort, but one that is aimed right at Ben Foster.

Manchester City v Watford - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Source: Dave Thompson

5Mins

Kyle Walker picks up the game’s first booking inside five minutes. The England international is shown a yellow card for dragging back Isaac Success, who looked like bursting away down that lefthand channel at speed.

8Mins

Close! Pep Guardiola’s men almost break the deadlock after eight minutes. Riyad Mahrez curls a dangerous ball into the box, but David Silva cannot get his head to it from close range.

Actually, upon closer inspection the ball actually hit Silva’s hand there before flying wide. Proper Diego Maradona antics and he’s lucky to not receive a yellow card.

11Mins

The reference is naturally always “Maradona” when a player tries to knock the ball in with his hand, but let’s never, ever forget this brilliant effort by Paul Scholes against Zenit way back in 2008. John O’Shea makes a convincing argument that the goal should stand.

Source: Puzan Thats/YouTube

14Mins

It’s all Man City at the moment, racking up the possession stats early doors. Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva zip the ball about with ease, but the latest final ball into the box to try and create a chance is hoofed clear at the first hurdle by Christian Kabasele.

16Mins

Ben Foster is forced to save at his near post. Another clinical move down the left wing sees David Silva cut inside with a clear sight at goal. He strikes a low, powerful shot aiming for Foster’s bottom corner, but the Watford ‘keeper gets a strong hand to the ball and keeps it out.

Britain Soccer Premier League Source: Rui Vieira

22Mins

Ooooh close again. City just keep on knocking on the door, but no breakthrough as of yet in a game which has felt like a training session for the hosts so far. This time around Olexandr Zinchenko whips a low ball across the box, with Sergio Aguero inches from connecting and sliding the ball into an empty net as Foster stood stranded.

25Mins

A stray pass by Miguel Britos invites a whole heap of pressure from Bernardo Silva down that lefthand side. It results in a City counter-attack with help from Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez, but Watford recover and force the ball clear for a corner kick.

27Mins

The corner is easily cleared and at the moment this game does seem to be reverting to a repetitive pattern of: Watford disposed, Man City counter, ball is smothered clear, repeat.

29Mins

Chance! Pep Guardiola watches on in dismay as Sergio Aguero passes up a golden opportunity to break the deadlock. David Silva swings a brilliant cross into the penalty area where the Argentine is completely unmarked at the back post. Aguero rises and makes a good connection with the ball, but his header flies just wide of the bottom corner.

Manchester City v Watford - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Source: Dave Thompson

31Mins

Oh, that’s an outstanding tackle. Absolutely outstanding. With Raheem Sterling breaking free at pace and looking absolutely certain to make it 1-0 inside the box, Daryl Janmaat slides in at the last possible second and pushes the ball to safety. Maldini-esque defending.

33Mins

Kyle Walker overlaps on Miguel Britos down the right, but Bernardo Silva’s threaded pass through is slightly overhit as City mount yet another attack. Walker is quick, we all know that, but not that quick. The ball whittles out for a goal-kick for Ben Foster.

37Mins

City have enjoyed 70% possession as the half-time interval nears. A quick look at the stats will reinforce their handle on this game so far, with Watford yet to produce a single shot on or off target. Yikes.

43Mins

This has not been a thriller, but with that said, you do have to credit Watford. Ben Foster has not had a whole lot to do in this opening half, but his clean sheet is still fully in-tact. Frustration is slowly starting to build amongst the City supporters inside the Etihad as their side fails to convert an overwhelming amount of possession into any sort of meaningful sight at goal. 

45Mins

There will be one minute of stoppage time to come at the end of the first half.

45Mins

Final chance before the break for City. Riyad Mahrez takes the ball right on the edge of the box and smacks it first-time, but his effort flies narrowly over the crossbar.

Chelsea v Manchester City - Premier League - Stamford Bridge Source: PA Archive/PA Images

45Mins

Half-time has arrived. Manchester City have been completely on top, with Watford not producing a single shot to test Ederson at the break. That said, it’s been a very frustrating 45 minutes for the league leaders. A host of chances, but no breakthrough as of yet. More action to come shortly!

47Mins

It’s a mad couple of minutes at the Etihad as Manchester City take the lead with the most bizarre goal. A ball over the top from Ilkay Gundogan finds Sergio Aguero, who chests the ball down to Raheem Sterling. Amid a host of bodies jostling for the ball, Christian Kabasele boots the ball off Sterling’s leg and it winds up in the back of the net. It looked like the goal might be ruled out for offside, but eventually it stands, and Man City lead 1-0.

Manchester City v Watford - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Source: Dave Thompson

51Mins

The game has gone from bad to worse for Watford. They strenuously argued that the opening goal should not have stood and it seems like they haven’t regained their composure since. It’s two goals in the space of three minutes and it’s a second of the evening for Raheem Sterling. Riyad Mahrez finds himself free down the wing, he crosses into the box, and Sterling has the simplest of tap-ins. It’s 2-0 with 40 minutes to go.

53Mins

After a valiant opening half where they just managed to hang on and looked like maybe grabbing a point, this game has been turned on its head for Watford. Javi Gracia is storming up and down his technical area looking not the least bit impressed. 

Manchester City v Watford - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Source: Dave Thompson

59Mins

With two goals in rapid quick succession, the game reverts to the mean as City again take hold of the ball and spin it left and right, to and fro, as bodies clad in green jerseys run around trying in vain to get a touch. Reminds you a bit of Ireland and Spain at Euro 2012. Ah God, poor Keith Andrews.

61Mins

That looks like game, set and match. Raheem Sterling completes his hat-trick with another classy finish. He cuts inside from the left and dribbles past a host of defenders before slipping the ball over Ben Foster and into the back of the Watford net. Three goals in 13 minutes for the winger. It’s Sterling 3-0 Watford at the Etihad.

Manchester City v Watford - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Source: Dave Thompson

64Mins

Substitution for Man City: Leroy Sane replaces Raheem Sterling.

66Mins

Double substitution for Watford: Troy Deeney replaces Isaac Success & Gerard Deulofeu replaces Kiko Femenia.

Talk about an impact substitution! Gerard Deulofeu makes it 3-1 with his very first touch off the bench. A long punt up the field by Ben Foster is knocked on by his fellow substitute Troy Deeney, and Deulofeu stabs the ball home for his seventh goal of the season. Incredible.

Manchester City v Watford - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Source: Dave Thompson

72Mins

That Deulofeu goal came from absolutely no-where. Should Watford manage to nab another, it would make this game very interesting. That said, Man City have once again wrested possession and are vying for a fourth to put this contest beyond any doubt. Leroy Sane has been brought on in place of hat-trick hero Sterling, and he has added a new lease of energy in the final third.

75Mins

Watford do press forward though. Nicolas Otamendi concedes a free-kick on the edge of the area which Deulofeu floats in looking for Troy Deeney — but his delivery is extraordinarily poor and the cross headed clear at the very first hurdle.

At the other end Kyle Walker floats through completely unchallenged inside the box. He makes it to the byline and fizzes an inviting ball across the box low and hard, but neither Sergio Aguero or Leroy Sane is on hand to tap it home.

Manchester City v Watford - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Source: Martin Rickett

78Mins

Two chances in quick succession for Man City. David Silva opens up his body and finds Aguero on his own close to goal. The Argentine forward whips a left-footed effort on target, but Ben Foster stands his ground on his front post and catches.

79Mins

Shots are reigning down on Ben Foster’s goal like I don’t know what. First of all Bernardo Silva has a free pop at goal, but his lobbed effort is saved well by the Watford goalkeeper. Next, Leroy Sane picks up the pieces at the opposite end of the box — but yet again his shot fails to find the back of the net, instead flying narrowly wide. 

83Mins

Gabriel Jesus comes close to adding a fourth. He breaks free inside the box after a powerful individual run, but Foster does just enough to put the Brazilian off and force his shot over the top of the crossbar.

88Mins

Substitution for Man City: Phil Foden replaces Riyad Mahrez.

90Mins

There will be four minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the second half.

There’s a late penalty appeal as in stoppage time Vincent Kompany swings at the ball, with Troy Deeney going down inside the area. The Watford striker looks in a bit of pain, but referee Paul Tierney waves play on.

Manchester City v West Ham United - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Source: PA Archive/PA Images

90Mins

There is another collision between Kompany and Deeney and this time the visitors earn a free-kick on the edge of the area deep into stoppage time. Gerard Deulofeu steps up to try and nab a late consolation, but his free smacks into the wall before being hoofed clear.

There we have it then. After a battling first-half performance where it looked like Watford might, maybe, potentially grab a point, Raheem Sterling ultimately proved the match-winner with an excellent 14-minute hat-trick. 

Gerard Deulofeu’s snappy goal off the bench gave this game a bit more injection of life in the final 20 minutes, but Pep Guardiola’s side maintained a firm handle on proceedings to see out a comfortable win which extends City’s lead at the top of the table to four points. Thanks a million for joining us this evening – you can read our full report here. Cya!

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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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