As the UEFA Champions League group stage reaches it’s penultimate act, Manchester City welcome Shakhtar Donetsk to the Etihad stadium knowing a win would secure their place as winners of Group C, and I write this article knowing it could be years before I next have to google how to spell Shakhtar Donetsk.
Here’s how we predict Pep Guardiola’s men will line up on this happy occasion…
The big news is that Sergio Agüero will be out for “weeks”, according to Pep Guardiola, after picking up what initially appeared to be a relatively routine injury against Chelsea. He’s not the only big name we’ll have to do without, though, as Aymeric Laporte, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Leroy Sané are all still unavailable. Bernardo Silva is back in the mix after a suspension against Chelsea.
As ever, it’s nigh on impossible to pick who will be in goal. Will Claudio Bravo step up? Will Pep turn to a youngster? Well, controversially, I think it’ll actually be the Brazilian Ederson who gets the nod. I’m not sure why but I have a feeling about him starting.
Kyle Walker missed out against Chelsea at the weekend and I think Pep will make that up to him with a start here, against a pacy visiting contingent. Something tells me Nicolas Otamendi will get an increasingly rare start for this game, and I’ll guess at John Stones to be his partner – against his former side, Fernandinho probably needs a rest. Angeliño should start at left-back, assuming he won’t be playing at Newcastle next weekend. Benjamin Mendy’s legs can’t afford to be overworked.
In midfield, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see Ilkay Gundogan start after spending most of the Chelsea game on the bench. While I doubt David Silva will be used for the second time in four days, it’s easy to imagine Kevin De Bruyne being given another game and I’m genuinely optimistic that Phil Foden will play from the first whistle here.
Gabriel Jesus will be playing up front every game for some time now, if Aguero’s injury really is serious, but who will flank him? I’m going with Raheem Sterling, who’s been among the Champions League standouts this season, and Bernardo Silva, rested remarkably well after receiving a worse punishment for a poorly judged tweet than the nation of Bulgaria did for racially abusing a group of black players.
There’ll be no problems predicting much of the bench, either, thanks to a limited number of fit players left. Claudio Bravo is a shoe-in in case we need him, as are Benjamin Mendy, Rodri, Fernandinho and Joao Cancelo– presuming none of them start. Riyad Mahrez will provide an alternative attacking option, and we may have to turn to the academy to fill the spaces, with Eric García being my best guess.
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