On the first day of a new decade, Manchester City will look to kick it off with a win against a revived Everton side at the Etihad Stadium. In the reverse fixture, the Blues comfortably beat the Toffees 3-1 at Goodison Park, with Kevin De Bruyne the stand-out performer, as is usually the case.
Manchester City have the luxury of an extra day of rest compared to the last two Premier League matches. But at a time when squad rotation is a necessity, it’s going to be even more difficult than normal to predict how Pep Guardiola will set up his side…
The big news coming from Pep’s Guardiola’s pre-match press conference was that Aymeric Laporte is around ‘one week to ten days‘ away from rejoining the squad in training. Adding to that, David Silva and John Stones have recovered from their own injuries and are available for selection. Leroy Sané is still a long term absentee.
Meanwhile Everton’s Morgan Schneiderlin will have a late fitness check for the home team, while Alex Iwobi and Andre Gomes have been ruled out. Jean-Philippe Gbamin is also ruled out.
Ederson obviously returns to the side, hopefully giving a shaky defence a little more confidence. Can Fernandinho play three games in such a short period of time? We’ve seen it numerous times before when City were so heavily reliant on him in central midfield, but another injury to a defender would be devastating. My guess is that Pep Guardiola will take that chance and look to bring him off early in the second-half, should City have a sizeable lead. Eric Garcia played well in the previous game, but my thinking is that Nicolas Otamendi and his physicality will be preferred.
The choice of full-backs is a tough one – Kyle Walker is overdue a rest so it’s likely Joao Cancelo, who has reportedly been upset by his lack of game-time, gets the nod. This means a more defensively minded left-back is needed if Cancelo is going to bomb forward as expected. It’s strange that this would be attacking-midfielder-turned-full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko, but that’s the position City find themselves in.
In midfield we should see further rotation with Ilkay Gundogan replacing Rodri in deeper role, and Kevin De Bruyne once again relied on heavily for what would be his third match in quick succession. Alongside him, I could see the ‘Stockport Iniesta’, Phil Foden, return to the line-up and bring his much needed energy to the midfield.
More pace will be needed, so I think we’ll see Bernardo Silva move over to the right and link-up with De Bruyne and Cancelo on that side. On the left, Gabriel Jesus could start and use his flair to cut into the centre to play alongside Sergio Aguero. This gives our two forwards some needed game time, whilst giving Raheem Sterling a well-needed rest.
Substitutes: Claudio Bravo, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Rodrigo, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez.
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