Manchester City look to take maximum points from their opening three Champions League group games, as they take on Greek side Olympiacos at the Etihad on Tuesday night.
After two accomplished performances previously against fellow group sides Porto and Marseille, Pep Guardiola and his men look to maintain their winning run before the international break next week.
With an enormous fixture just around the corner against title holder Liverpool this weekend, Pep may need to provide some rotation in order to allow key players to rest and others a chance to preserve their form.
After some typical bizarre Pep starting line ups in the past few weeks, naming an unchanged side for the first time in three years a little over a week ago, has certainly thrown a spanner into the works for what squad selections the Catalan may make.
With that in mind, here is our predicted eleven….
As always, barring injury, Ederson will take his place between the sticks.
On the right side of the defence, it’s hard to look past Kyle Walker. After the Englishman’s excellent finish against his boyhood side Sheffield United, it would be unwise to rest him for this game given its importance in cementing a firm grip on top spot of the group and preparing for Liverpool.
At centre-back is where it may become more precarious. Ruben Dias is an almost certainty given his remarkably impressive performances so far at the club. Accompanying him may be a somewhat complicated. With the Liverpool front three just around the corner, it would make sense to not risk breaking the rhythm of the building partnership between him and Aymeric Laporte. It would be nice to see Nathan Aké in the line up following his injury, but it might be more fitting having him on the bench to replace Laporte on the hour mark.
Left back, as always, is another tricky area. Joao Cancelo looked okay on the left side of the defence on Saturday, but he is shoddiness defensively is very troubling. Similarly to Laporte, you may want to rest him or move him over to the right to let Walker have a rest and play Zinchenko at left-back. That said, if Sande Berge can breeze past Cancelo a handful of times, god only knows what Salah will do.
With the backline remaining the same, it does suggest that a range of changes in midfield may occur. Rodri is another who has started pretty much most games this season and may be in need of a rest. With Ilkay Gundogan aiming to be back to full fitness after his short interlude on the weekend, we suspect he shall claim a spot as the number 6. A double pivot is of course always likely but we do hope Gundogan plays there with a little defensive cover from the next player.
Bernardo Silva is slowly showing more and more glimpses akin to his exceptional performances in the 18/19 campaign. While not offering an abundance going forward as he did in that season, his tenacity, endurance and neat link up play centrally is a sight for sore eyes. While we may miss the physicality of Rodri in midfield, partnering Gundogan and Bernardo could pose a greater threat through the middle and maintaining pressing sequences.
Ahead of them it is difficult not to pick Kevin De Bruyne. Ideally the Belgian would be given a rest but his performance on Saturday was lacklustre and his final ball was just off. Hopefully his inclusion of this fixture will shake off any rustiness and have the Belgian’s incisive passing recalibrated.
On the left of the front three we sincerely hope Phil Foden is given a starting spot. It’s frustrating seeing Foden’s recent form from the bench not be reward with a starting spot the following game but we hope this is the fixture to do so. His qualities are undeniable at this point and it is refreshing and somewhat exciting that a young academy product should be so clearly be a regular in the starting line-up.
In the central striker spot, we expect Ferran Torres to keep his spot after two promising stints in the role. It’s still early days but the young Spaniard has looked incredibly lively as the spear of out attacks. While not his natural position, his adaptation has worked well so far and on balance should be given another starting spot to continue his good form.
Riyad Mahrez has been exceedingly subpar during this start to the new season. While Sheffield United away from home is by no means an easy game, Mahrez’s ability should surely cause mountains of trouble to his opponents. However, Max Lowe (Sheffield United’s new addition from Derby County) pocketed Mahrez for most of the game and rarely looked troubled.
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