Man City the team to beat as they return to summit of Premier League table

The three-team race between them, Liverpool and Chelsea will no doubt entertain well into the New Year, but this Man City side are looking special again.
Man City the team to beat as they return to summit of Premier League table

Manchester City players react after the Premier League match at Vicarage Road. Picture: Tess Derry

Watford 1 Man City 3

Defending champions Manchester City moved effortlessly back to the top of the Premier League table and are once again the team to beat.

The three-team race between them, Liverpool and Chelsea will no doubt entertain well into the New Year, but this City side are looking special again.

They have maintained their place in the race while combatting a number of injuries with a crop of their latest exciting youth products.

But now Pep Guardiola has most of his main men to select from again and Watford's annual capitulation confirmed their relegation worries are not going away while City only have their eye on the prize.

First half goals from Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva could and should have been added to by many more before and after the break.

Keeping the score respectable was about all Watford had to play for.

The omens were never good for Claudio Ranieri's side as City had scored a remarkable 50 goals, conceding only six, in their previous 13 games against the Hertfordshire club.

The home side's only vaguely hopeful history was that new manager Ranieri had never lost in the nine times he had been in charge against City.

The problem, for Watford of course, was he was in managing different teams in all of those fixtures and the atmosphere here fell flat when Sterling headed City in front with just under five minutes on the clock.

Phil Foden picked out his England international team-mate with an inch-perfect cross and the finish from six yards was straightforward.

Only stand-in Watford keeper Daniel Bachmann prevented City from putting the match beyond Watford's reach inside the opening ten minutes as he saved from Sterling and then the recalled Jack Grealish.

Bachmann was playing well enough that he did not have to pick the ball out of his net again until the 31st minute – when he was beaten at his near post by Silva's fifth goal in eight games.

Silva scored a brilliant second, City's third, in the 63rd minute as he ended a free flowing move by cutting into the area and curling a left foot shot into Bachmann's top right hand corner.

Such is the rarity of a Watford goal against City, the stand started shaking under the celebrations of substitute Cucho Hernandez.

The Colombian dashed to grab the ball from the back of the net after he followed up the rebound of his own shot off a post, inspiring the crowd to think they could get something from the game with only 15 minutes to go.

Guardiola can experiment in Tuesday's 'dead rubber' Champions League group tie away to RB Leipzig, but could have an injury concern over substitute striker Gabriel Jesus, who sustained a knock in the closing stages of this match.

Watford, only three points and one place above the drop zone, can take heart from the way they responded to going behind so early and next go to Brentford and Burnley for potentially nail-biting relegation six-pointers.

WATFORD: Bachmann 7, Femenia 6, Troost-Ekong 5, Cathcart 6, Rose 4 (Ngakia 71), Louza 5 (Hernandez 45), Dennis 7, Cleverley 5 (Kucka 45), Sissoko 5, Pedro 6, King 6. Subs: Elliot, Morris, Gosling, Fletcher, Tufan, Kabasele.

MAN CITY: Ederson 6, Cancelo 7, Dias 7, Laporte 6, Walker 6, Gundogan 6 (De Bruyne 67), Rodri 6, Grealish 5 (Mahrez 68) , Silva 9, Sterling 7, Foden 6 (Jesus 75). Subs: Steffen, Carson, Stones, Ake, Zinchenko, Fernandinho.

Ref: Simon Hooper 6.

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