Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City pay a visit to the high-flying Southampton this Saturday as the Citizens aim to bounce back from their miserable midweek draw against West Bromwich Albion.
Southampton have caused Pep Guardiola and his men struggles in previous fixtures, most notably the 1-0 loss back in July. That day saw City have a staggering 26 shots throughout the 90 minutes – a figure recently equalled by the Blues on Wednesday evening.
This weekend arguably calls for a shake up in the starting eleven but it is more the manner of the display than the eleven itself that is the key issue revolving around the City team at this moment in time.
With that in mind, here is our Predicted Eleven for what promises to be a tricky tie down at St Mary’s….
Ederson of course starts this game. Apart from an excellent save early on against West Brom, the Brazilian had very little do. Southampton will look to a keep a compact mid-block, with a few incisive pressing triggers. Ederson will be crucial in the build up play and keeping out the prolific Southampton attacking core.
At right-back, we see none other than Kyle Walker reclaiming his spot after his late cameo in midweek. The Englishman’s pace will be critical as always, but hopefully this time he’ll provide the much-needed width and over laps during our prolonged build up play.
The centre-back spots arguably speak for themselves. Ruben Dias remains a constant in the backline and we assume John Stones will return after his absence on Wednesday. It’s still bizarre to think that Aymeric Laporte is no longer a staple in the City back four. However, after Nathan Aké’s incredibly underwhelming performance in mid-week, we feel the Frenchman will return to action in City colours very soon.
Now onto a position where there appears to be no right answer – left-back. Cancelo had a promising performance of sorts against United and some of his best performances have come in high pressure games such as Liverpool. However, he was woeful in mid-week and that was only equalled in quality by his counterpart, Benjamin Mendy. Yet that being said, we feel the Frenchman will be given the start this weekend.
At the base of midfield, we see none other than Rodri continuing his succession of league starts. Many City fans were exasperated with the Spaniard’s contributions against West Brom, particularly going forward. Fernandinho could well reclaim his post after his start in the derby. However, this fixture poses a different kind of game for City and dominance in central midfield will be critical. Rodri does have issues, which have been well documented, but his ability to play through a press is still a key facet of City’s play and provides the necessary height to deal with Southampton’s impervious set piece threat.
Ahead of him, we cannot see Ilkay Gundogan losing his spot after being our standout player on Wednesday. As bland as it may seem, the German played noticeably well (due to the lack of quality around him) in mid-week and it would be unusual to replace him with Foden or Bernardo Silva.
Kevin De Bruyne will of course keep his spot as City’s talisman. The Belgian has looked discernibly lacklustre these past few weeks after what appears to an upturn in form in his performances against Burnley & Fulham. Lesser opponents they may be, his energy appeared revived in those fixtures. But games against United & West Brom saw the playmaker noticeably frustrated, throwing his arms up in the air in reaction to the poor passing plaguing the entire side throughout both matches.
On the right side of the front three, City simultaneously have a plethora of options and no options at all. City are caught in a carrousel of deploying every available winger to that slot in the hopes one will ignite and maintain a good run of form. From Mahrez to Foden, Foden to Torres & Torres to Sterling. I would personally like to see Ferran Torres given a starting berth on the right-hand side to attack Ryan Bertrand.
Yet, we have a suspicion Riyad Mahrez will start this weekend. Southampton attack heavily on their left-hand side with a combination of Bertrand, Djenepo or Redmond along with both Adams & Ings liking to drift into the left-hand channel too. Therefore, the defensive capabilities of a Mahrez or Bernardo in defensive transition will be something we assume Guardiola may lean on.
On the opposing flank, Raheem Sterling continues his run in the side. Beside from that shocking miss in the final moments against West Brom, Sterling was one of City’s liveliest players. Not all his dribbles or passes came off but his incentive to run in behind was a constant threat. While some of the players may not have the necessary quality or conviction to play those high-risk passes for Sterling, his runs in behind and vertical style will be essential in targeting Kyle Walker-Peters.
Up front, Gabriel Jesus would be the obvious shout as Southampton’s style lends itself much better to the Brazilian’s skill set. Although Sergio Aguero did gain some minutes from the bench on Tuesday night, Pep Guardiola revealed in his pre-match press conference that the Argentine has only partaken in one session ahead of the weekend due to problems in other ‘positions‘ than his knee.
You can follow Rob on Twitter here: @notherView
Follow us on Twitter for live match coverage: @City_Xtra