With this game all over after just the first 90 minutes, Pep Guardiola has his best opportunity to rotate the side and give some of the more crucial players some much-needed rest ahead of a frantic end to January and a run of huge games in February.
With an FA Cup tie against Burnley coming up for the blues on Saturday, and an early indication that Guardiola will take that competition extremely seriously this season, you can expect to see very little of those who we would regard as ‘crucial individuals’ at the Pirelli Stadium.
Aro Muric may be one of the very few players that is absolutely certain to start this one. The Kosovan international has been faultless throughout the tournament and is likely to start at Wembley in the final of the Carabao Cup. The central defence may also pick itself with the combination from the previous clash between these two sides proving successful. Nicolas Otamendi appeared to be the perfect role model for 18-year-old Eric Garcia to work with. The Argentinean was ever-present whenever required to sweep-up on behalf of the teenager. The right-back position opens up an opportunity for a relatively new face to appear this season in Luke Bolton (19). The Stockport-born winger was used by Guardiola during pre-season, much to the surprise of the teenager. But to say he impressed City fans and the coaching staff is an understatement. Benjamin Mendy was also revealed to be included in the travelling squad, however with the Frenchman just returning after a long-term injury, starting or even featuring in this game would be a huge risk; a risk that Pep Guardiola will not be prepared to take, especially given the run of crucial fixtures in February. Oleksandr Zinchenko is more than likely to start at left-back.
A midfield three is likely to feature once again for the blues and we are likely to see three familiar faces. Fabian Delph is in need of game time following his suspension and is likely to start this one in a relatively unfamiliar position given his services mainly being used at full-back; the Englishman could be set to start in defensive midfield, giving Fernandinho a much-needed rest. The more attacking midfielders are likely to be Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden with the latter looking to impress once again, and prove a few names within the media wrong that you can in fact get game time in this Manchester City side. That could be two Stockport-born lads starting for Manchester City; not many would’ve predicted that given the spending over the past few years!
The front three features two familiar first-team starters and one very unfamiliar name to the first-team squad! Riyad Mahrez is at a stage where game-time and confidence is absolutely essential and so a start in this fixture is almost certain. Gabriel Jesus was, to the surprise of many, dropped at the weekend for Sergio Aguero, despite scoring seven goals in the three games preceding that one – the Brazilian will certainly start this one! However, at left-wing, Leroy Sane or Raheem Sterling may not feature despite their blistering form. 18-year-old Ian Carlo Poveda could make his first start for the first team. Poveda was signed from Bradford in 2016 for a six-figure sum however started his career at Arsenal before moving to Barcelona. Pep Guardiola and the coaching staff have always been impressed by the teenagers quick feet in training sessions throughout the campaign – this could be his chance to impress and make a name for himself!
We can also expect to see some exciting names featuring on the substitutes bench for City too, with several relatively unfamiliar faces featuring in training on Monday. The likes of Sandler, Iker Pozo and Felix Nmecha could all be named in the match day squad.
Predicted Starting XI:
Aro Muric, Luke Bolton, Nicolas Otamendi, Eric Garcia, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fabian Delph, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Ian Carlo Poveda.
Ederson, Philippe Sandler, Aymeric Laporte, Raheem Sterling, Taylor Richards, Iker Pozo, Felix Nmecha.
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