Following a successful international break for City’s players, with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane running the show for their respective nations, the Blues put in a solid performance against a very lacklustre Fulham side who couldn’t even manage a shot on target.
The Blues continue in the driver’s seat for the Premier League title with a game in hand over Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s side currently two points ahead following yet another stoppage time goalkeeping error. Every game remaining this season is a must-win and for now, an unprecedented quadruple (or quintuple if you wish to count the community shield) remains possible.
The Blues’ next challenge is Cardiff City, which won’t be the walkover game that is expected by many by any means. Although heavy favourites for relegation at the start of the season considering the perceived lack of quality within the squad, the Bluebirds have a very good chance to remain in the Premier League, having won three of their last seven fixtures and only losing to Chelsea due to a dubious last-minute goal. Cardiff will present more of a challenge than expected and this will surely be a more difficult game than when City ran out 5-0 winners in South Wales back in September.
The Bluebirds can be a threat from set pieces with 6’3 centre half Sol Bamba having notched four goals this season. In comparison, one of City’s main sources for goals has once again been Sergio Aguero with the Argentine notching 20 goals (and counting) this campaign. However, with both players ruled out through their respective injuries, both City and Cardiff will have to look to Plan B.
City are in very good form having won 20 of the last 21 games in all competitions, and recent weeks have seen Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and Aymeric Laporte return from injuries, suggesting that City could now become an even more formidable side. With this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final in mind, Guardiola may be tempted to rest a few key players, however due to the sheer quality within the City squad, this shouldn’t be a problem. The Blues coasted to a victory over Fulham at the weekend and all signs point to another City victory on Wednesday night.
Pep’s Tuesday press conference informed us that, as expected, Sergio Aguero is out of the squad with a knock. However, the good news is the injury doesn’t appear to be serious and he inferred that Aguero should be ready for the trip to Wembley on Saturday. Fabian Delph is the only other injury and according to Guardiola, the rest of the squad are “quite well”.
As previously mentioned, Cardiff remain without their defensive beacon, Sol Bamba. However, they are also without their surprise goalscorer Callum Paterson, who like his teammate, is ruled out for the rest of the season.
CITY XTRA LINE-UP PREDICTION:
Ederson is certain to start in goal; the Brazilian is as good with his feet as he is with his hands, and he has been a revelation in the side since his arrival. In defence, Kyle Walker is likely to be rested with Saturday’s semi-final in mind and Danilo is a more than adequate replacement. The Brazilian has performed impressively throughout the season and is hardly a liability. In central defence, Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte have established themselves as a solid defensive pairing and have performed well together throughout the season. Both are technically skilled and reliable at the back, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! And last but certainly not least, Oleksandr Zinchenko has been infallible since his reintroduction to the team in February and looks set to retain his place in the starting XI.
Although Fernandinho is back in the squad and nearing full-fitness, Ilkay Gündogan has been flawless in recent months, and despite murmurings of a possible summer departure, I’d expect the German to start. David Silva also looks likely to start, however, with a trip to Wembley on Saturday in mind, expect to see El Mago substituted around the hour mark. When fit, Kevin De Bruyne is arguably the best player in the league, and with every game remaining this season being a must-win situation, the Belgian should be starting. Hopefully, he can guide the Blues to victory as he did so many times last season.
Bernardo Silva is arguably the player of the season and he has been in formidable form since the turn of the year. He has made the team tick all season-long and has more than compensated for the loss of attacking flair caused by Kevin De Bruyne’s injuries and David Silva’s fluctuating form – he is expected to start.
On the left wing, Leroy Sané looks a strong possibility to return to the starting XI. The German has struggled for minutes this season with Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling being in such great form, however two excellent performances for Germany over the international break must tempt Guardiola into giving him a start. Despite his limited playtime, Sané has racked up eight goals and nine assists in the league this season. He may be essential in the final stages of the campaign.
And finally, expect to see Gabriel Jesus leading the line on his 22nd birthday. The Brazilian has been a bit-part player throughout the campaign but Aguero’s latest injury provides Jesus with the chance to stake a claim for a greater role in the side.
City Bench: Aro Muric, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Fernandinho, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez.
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