The fixture list is getting busier by the week. There’s certainly no time to sit and bask in the jaw-dropping performance that resulted in City’s 8-0 victory against Watford on Saturday. The Carabao Cup title defence starts on Tuesday, against Preston North End. They currently sit 3rd in the Championship after eight matches, one point off the top two. Can City get off on a strong foot and continue their momentum following their last two victories?
City’s thrashing of Watford was the perfect response to the shock defeat to Norwich a week ago. Attention now turns to City’s bread-and-butter tournament. The back-to-back champions will be looking to add a third consecutive League Cup trophy, and also for the opportunity to get some younger players valuable minutes. We should see a much changed side from the one at the weekend. This match represents an opportunity for multiple players on the fringes of the first team the chance to prove their worthiness of a place in the starting eleven week-in week-out.
After the match against Watford, Guardiola was full of praise for young central defender Eric Garcia. The Spaniard enjoyed the last half hour of the match after coming on in place of Nicolas Otamendi. Guardiola raved about the 18 year-old, speaking on how confident he was. Specifically, he mentioned how Garcia was eager to point out that Watford were warming up in a back four, which Pep and the coaching staff were unsure about leading up to the match. This confidence seemed to have really impressed the Catalan boss.
Guardiola confirmed that Taylor Harwood-Bellis has been promoted to the first-team squad. The 17 year-old heavily impressed on City’s Asia tour over the summer. Now, it seems that the England native is going to be given his chance due to the injuries to Aymeric Laporte and John Stones. Pep Guardiola stated, “…From now on, he will train with us. Whether he will play or not, we’ll see. I saw in preseason. He is aggressive, he wins duels, he pays attention.” It is unlikely we will see him start the match, but there is a high chance he will be involved in some capacity on Tuesday evening.
City Xtra Predicted XI
We are almost certain to see Claudio Bravo return to the side for the first time since victory in the Community Shield. The Chilean has been a confident presence behind the back four during his time since returning from his Achilles injury, and will be looking to continue in this fashion. Looking at the back four, the time has finally come. Joao Cancelo should be set to make his first start since arriving from Juventus. The Portuguese international has been struggling for game time since his arrival, similar to quite a few of Pep’s signings in recent years. However, he should be given his chance to get some game time Tuesday. Eric Garcia will get his first start of the campaign, and given Nicolas Otamendi went off after 60 minutes on Saturday, I believe it will be the Argentine to partner the youngster at the heart of the defense. On the left, Angelino should continue to build on his positive second half performance against Watford with his first competitive start since his return from PSV.
In midfield, Ilkay Gundogan should get the nod in the number six position. We have not heard anything concerning Phil Foden’s fitness since his exclusion from City’s travelling squad to Ukraine, so I am going to assume that he will be fit and start the match. Alongside him is a tough choice, as Pep will want to give rest to as many of his key midfielders as possible, but David Silva will most likely get the place in the starting eleven next to Foden.
In attack, Gabriel Jesus will lead the line for Manchester City. The Brazilian has looked bright so far this season following his excellent time with at the Copa America this past summer. Alongside him, I predict we will see a start for Adrian Bernabe. Another Spaniard plucked from La Masia, Pep is a big fan of the youngster and wants to integrate him into the first-team set up as quickly as possible. On the left, Raheem Sterling will come back into the side following his rest at the weekend.
Substitutes: Ederson, Benjamin Mendy, Harwood-Bellis, Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, Ian Poveda, Bernardo Silva
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