Gelsenkirchen Game Plan – Predicted XI for FC Schalke 04 vs Manchester City (UEFA Champions League)

UEFA Champions League football returns on Wednesday night as Manchester City travel to Germany to face an underperforming FC Schalke 04. After topping their group last year, Pep Guardiola’s team will be anxious to send out a statement of intent against the Bundesliga strugglers. Despite finishing second in the German league last year, Domenico Tedesco’s side are not the side they were twelve months ago, having suffered from terrible form that leaves them two spots above the drop down to the Bundesliga II at the time of writing.

Unlike a certain other English side, City will hope to put their tie with German opponents out of sight within ninety minutes, and with our predicted line-up, they will have more than the firepower they need to do so. Should the Blues run out firm victors, the squad will no doubt be flying into Sunday’s league cup final, and confident in anticipation of a comfortable return leg in Manchester to come.

Without further ado, here’s how we predict the visitors will line up in Gelsenkirchen…

Team News:

City will have to deal with absences from both John Stones and Gabriel Jesus, who have picked up groin and hamstring problems respectively and have not travelled to Germany.

Schalke are without defensive midfielder Omar Mascarell, who is serving a suspension, whilst Alessandro Schopf and Breel Embolo are ruled out.

City Xtra Line-up Prediction:

Ederson will surprise nobody by starting between the posts for this first leg fixture – the Brazilian is in good form of late.

In front of him, we can expect Kyle Walker to return to the team after being rested against Newport County. With Benjamin Mendy not ready to return yet, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Oleksandr Zinchenko get another outing on the opposite flank – he was trusted against Chelsea and played very well, after all. Between them, it has to be Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte, forced by recent injuries to Vincent Kompany and John Stones.

Manchester City’s Ukrainian midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko (R) vies with Chelsea’s Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on February 10, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Fernandinho is the first outfield name on the team sheet, which is both a testament to his ability and a bad look for our recruitment staff. Ahead of him, selections get a little bit trickier. Kevin de Bruyne seems likely to play after missing the Newport game but next to him there are three options – I’ll plump for Bernardo Silva after he was also rested at the weekend.

That, then, leaves the front three looking somewhat straightforward. Raheem Sterling is a must as the Englishman continues his noble, if ill-fated, quest to force pundits and fans to admit he is world-class. Gabriel Jesus’ recently-reported injury means Sergio Agüero will have a chance to keep his brilliant form going up front, and Leroy Sané deserves a chance to start against his old team. Whatever your opinion on Riyad Mahrez’s recent form, he hasn’t done enough to justify a place over either Ilkay Gundogan or Sané.

NEWPORT, WALES – FEBRUARY 16: Leroy Sane of Manchester City during the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Newport County AFC and Manchester City at Rodney Parade on February 16, 2019 in Newport, United Kingdom. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

City Bench: Aro Muric will provide Ederson with some back-up as the youngster prepares for a possible cup final on Sunday. I predict Danilo will play back-up fullback, but that doesn’t leave many more fit defenders, so perhaps Fabian Delph will come in from the cold. Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva give us midfield options and, finally, there’s room for Riyad Mahrez as the only true forward on the bench.

Follow the author on Twitter: @nallensports

Follow City Xtra on Twitter: @City_Xtra

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