The clash between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad on Thursday night may not carry the same weight as it usually has in recent years, but there’s still pride to play for as the two meet in the Premier League.
After conceding the title to Liverpool with several games still to play, nobody in Manchester wants to see Jurgen Klopp’s men pick up another win in this remarkable campaign of theirs – as they look to close in on City’s 100 point record.
Here’s how we predict Pep Guardiola will send out his team for the first-vs-second clash…
The big news for City right now is that it looks like Leroy Sané is as good as gone, with Bayern Munich reportedly agreeing a fee with the Citizens. I’d be staggered if we see him in the squad tomorrow, or ever again for that matter.
The silver lining is that Pep Guardiola will have a mostly fit squad to pick from other than that, with Sergio Agüero the only notable injury absentee. Fernandinho is still suspended after his red card against Chelsea, and Eric García may not be ready to come back just yet.
It takes absolutely no foresight to say that Ederson will start in goal once more, but the question of who will be in front of him is slightly more interesting. I have to say that Kyle Walker is the only person I can envision starting at right-back, because it just feels as though Pep wouldn’t trust Joao Cancelo against Sadio Mané. On the opposite flank I expect us to see some more of Benjamin Mendy– despite his awful error against Chelsea, he’s still our first choice in that position. In central defence Aymeric Laporte and Nicolas Otamendi are obvious candidates, as Fernandinho is suspended and John Stones seems to be completely out of favour.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’ll be Ilkay Gundogan once again at the base of midfield. I’m not going to make a comment on whether or not that’s a good idea, because every City fan has different opinions, but I’m fairly sure he’ll be playing in place of Rodri anyway. Kevin de Bruyne will get a chance to remind everyone just how far ahead of Jordan Henderson he actually is while David Silva seems likely to start over Foden or Bernardo in midfield.
Please, Pep, I’m absolutely begging you – don’t go with a false nine again here. I know you like it in big games, but honestly, it never works. I could count on one hand the number of times someone starting as a false nine for us has actually scored or assisted during the match, and that’s being generous. I really want Pep to stick to a traditional front three of Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling, even though the latter has a truly awful record against Liverpool.
On the bench, then, will be the rest of our available first-team players. Claudio Bravo, John Stones, Joao Cancelo, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Rodri, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva are all absolute shoe-ins for spots among the substitutes, while I’m backing Cole Palmer and Taylor Harwood-Bellis to make up the numbers from the Academy.
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