Manchester City came back with a bang against Arsenal, but Burnley’s visit to the Etihad Stadium on Monday night offers a very different challenge.
The Blues will have to be at their best to beat a Burnley side who always bring the battle to the big teams. Since returning to the Premier League, Sean Dyche’s men have beaten the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea – there is no room for complacency from Pep Guardiola or his players.
Here’s how we predict Manchester City will line up against the Clarets…
Pep Guardiola was rumoured to have a fully fit squad for the game against Arsenal against Wednesday night, but in the event three players were declared ‘not fully fit‘. However, we can assume that Claudio Bravo, John Stones and Joao Cancelo will now be ready for this match.
Eric García is expected to be unavailable for another week or so following his nasty accident against the Gunners- City fans, though, will have been immensely relieved to hear that a week out is all that he needs.
I’m also interested to see if Leroy Sané will keep getting picked following Pep Guardiola’s pre-match announcement that he wants to leave Manchester City. I imagine it depends if the club think we can offload him this summer or not, but I’ve left him out of today’s prediction.
Other than the unfortunate clash with Eric Garcia, I thought Ederson was very good against Arsenal, particularly in the quality of his passing. Business as usual, then, for the Brazilian, who’s surely going to start again on Monday.
A lot has been made of concerns about how the break will have affected how players recover between matches, as well as how susceptible to injury they may be. With that in mind, I think Joao Cancelo will start this one, giving Kyle Walker a break for the Chelsea game on Thursday. I expect to see Benjamin Mendy get another start here too, with Oleksandr Zinchenko possibly coming in to play against Chelsea.
Aymeric Laporte is probably one of the first names on the team sheet – he’s just too important to leave out at the moment. I would like to see him being partnered by Nicolás Otamendi – and I think that’s what Pep Guardiola will do as well. The Argentine is likely coming to the end of his time at Manchester City, and while the timing is clearly right, I’ll still be sad to see him go. While he’s attracted criticism for his performances against pacy forwards over the years, Otamendi’s talents are a must when facing a physical side like Burnley.
Speaking of physicality being a must-have, I think it’s essential that Rodri plays against the Clarets. Not only did the Spaniard score a screamer in the reverse fixture in December, but his height and presence will make defending set-pieces a hell of a lot easier on our centre-backs.
I know recovery is a worry, but I just don’t see us going into this game without Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian has always been physically very good and when injuries aren’t a problem, he has no issues playing almost every league game in a season, and besides, we need his creativity. He also needs as many games as he can get if he wants to break Thierry Henry’s assist record, seeing as the Premier League seem determined that he doesn’t get it.
We’ve heard a few rumours that Phil Foden is in line for a start against Burnley too, and personally I hope he gets it. He looked good off the bench against Arsenal, reminding us all what he offers differently to other midfielders in the squad – partially, getting in the box to tap in second balls. It also looks like Phil has come on leaps and bounds physically since he broke into the senior squad and personally I don’t think his physicality is a valid excuse not to play him anymore.
It strikes me that we could (and probably should) rest Riyad Mahrez for the Chelsea game here, so Bernardo Silva may come into the side on the right. While I still believe that Bernardo is better in midfield, he can more than do a job as a winger in the majority of our games. Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling will probably stay in the side on the left, looking to build on his first goal of 2020 against Arsenal. If there is a single positive to come from the break, I hope it’s that Sterling can get his confidence back and return to his brilliant best.
Finally, I expect Sergio Agüero to come back into the starting XI for this game. Although I understand Pep’s reasons for selecting Jesus against the Gunners, Agüero remains the undisputed king of Manchester-based goalscoring. He’s still in with a good chance of winning the Golden Boot, too, which would be incredibly impressive for someone who doesn’t even start three-quarters of his team’s matches.
The bench will be a fairly easy guess for the rest of the season, as there are nine slots now available – meaning it’s nearly impossible for me to get more than a few wrong. I think it’ll look something like this: Claudio Bravo, Oleksandr Zinchenko, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus.
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