Manchester City have looked every inch title favourites in recent weeks, reeling off nine successive Premier League wins since their shock 2-0 defeat at home to Crystal Palace in late October. That run of form has seen them overhaul Chelsea at the top of the table and open up a six point lead heading into tonight's game.
Pep Guardiola's side have scored 17 goals in their last three league outings, in the process breaking the record for most top flight goals in a calendar year, City's tally of 112 is six better than their own mark which they set way back in 1929. 2021 has also seen City set a new record for most top flight wins (35) and top flight away wins (18) in a calendar year.
At the other end of the pitch, City have conceded just 12 goals in 19 Premier League outings, a quarter of those coming on Boxing Day as they beat Leicester City 6-3.
The goals have been shared around at The Etihad so far this campaign with six players having netted four or more; Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva (below) leading the way with seven each.
In the Champions League, City topped Group A, ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, to set up a Last 16 tie against Sporting Lisbon in the New Year. They have, however, this season relinquished their four-year grip on the Carabao Cup, going out on penalties to West Ham in Round Four.
City's dominance on the ball this season has been such, Guardiola's side average 67 per cent possession, that the top five players in the Premier League for average passes per game all play in Sky Blue and they also have three of the top four (Aymeric Laporte, Ruben Dias and Rodri) when it comes to pass completion percentage.
Writing for Hot Off The Press, Simon Bajkowski of the Manchester Evening News, said: "They have generally lined up with a very loose 4-3-3 formation, but with Joao Cancelo as a full-back, pushing right up through the team, wingers are high and wide and midfielders pushing through to press high in the forward line. They like to play high up the pitch and pen their opponents back into their own third of the pitch and then allow their creative players to plot a way through for an attacker to finish off in the box. The personnel is interchangeable because of the amount of talent in the squad, but the team tend to set up in the same way. They have shown in recent games against Aston Villa, Leeds and Wolves that you can set up very aggressively against them or set up very defensively against them – and if you are not on top of your game, they will find a way through regardless"
Should Bryan Mbeumo not recover from the calf injury he picked up on Boxing Day that would leave Thomas Frank without an entire XI for tonight's game. Vitaly Janelt (Covid-19), Christian Norgaard (suspended), and Rico Henry (hamstring) have joined David Raya, Julian Jeaniver (both knee), Charlie Goode, Kris Ajer, Tariqe Fosu, Zanka (all hamstring), and Josh Dasilva (hip) on the absentee list. Mads Roerslev may be able to return to the matchday squad following Covid but he is not fit enough to complete 90 minutes.
For Manchester City, Kyle Walker and Rodri could return tonight but Ferran Torres and John Stones will both miss out.
The phrase 'has won it all' might have been invented for Pep Guardiola.
Considered by many, including Thomas Frank, as the greatest manager of the modern era, the 50-year-old has won nine league titles, 12 domestic cups, two Champions Leagues, two FIFA Club World Cups, and three UEFA Super Cups since taking up management with Barcelona in 2008.
His first season in charge ended with Barca becoming the first Spanish side to win the treble of La Liga, Copa Del Rey, and Champions League; Guardiola, in the process, also became the youngest man to win the Champions League as a manager. In 2011, after leading the club to another La Liga and Champions League double, Guardiola was awarded the Catalan Parliament's Gold Medal, their highest honour. The same year, he was also named the FIFA World Coach of the Year. He ended his four-year Barcelona stint in 2012 with 14 honours, a club record.
After a sabbatical period, Bayern Munich announced Guardiola would join the club as manager in 2013. Guardiola won the Bundesliga every season he was there, as well as two domestic doubles. He left the Bavarians for Manchester City in 2016, and guided them to a Premier League title in his second campaign in charge, breaking numerous records as the team became the first to pass 100 league points. He won a second consecutive Premier League and EFL Cup the following season, as well as the FA Cup, becoming the first manager to win the domestic treble in English men's football.
He also holds the records for the most consecutive league games won in La Liga, the Bundesliga, and the Premier League.
All this came after a decorated playing career spent predominantly at the Nou Camp. The defensive midfielder was part of the team that won Barca's first European Cup in 1992, and four successive Spanish league titles from 1991 to 1994. He later captained the team from 1997, winning two more La Liga titles, until his departure in 2001. Guardiola then had stints with Brescia and Roma in Italy, Al-Ahli in Qatar, and Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico. He was capped 47 times for the Spanish national team and appeared at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, as well as at UEFA Euro 2000.
THE OPPOSITION VIEW
Pep Guardiola told mancity.com: "[Thomas Frank] made an incredible start to the season, [they are] doing really well. I saw the Carabao Cup game against Chelsea...wow, they lost but they were incredible. They drew against Liverpool, they beat Arsenal. They are a top team, we know it and we will prepare seeing how is the quality of our players right now to try and do it."
Referee: David Coote
Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt and Nick Hopton
Fourth Official: Craig Pawson
VAR: Jarred Gillett
Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis
Manchester City 2021/22
169 fouls – 13th in Premier League
28 yellow cards – 14th in Premier League
1 red card – Fourth-most in Premier League
All adult supporters must fill in a Covid-19 Self Declaration form before coming tonight and be able to show proof of an NHS COVID Pass or negative test result within the last 48 hours
HOW TO FOLLOW
Tonight's game is live on Amazon Prime, coverage starts at 7.30pm. For fans around the world, the game is being shown live through the Premier League's broadcast partners. Click here to see if the game is on where you are.
Mark Burridge will also be bringing live commentary from The Brentford Community Stadium on Bees Player. He will be joined by Natalie Sawyer and Karleigh Osborne.