Manchester City return to domestic cup action this Tuesday as they pay a visit to Arsenal in the Carabao Cup quarter-final.
Since Mikel Arteta left Pep Guardiola’s side for life at Arsenal, it feels like the two clubs have faced each other an inordinate amount of times. Well, strap yourselves in for another because the two coaches find themselves on opposite benches once again for this Carabao Cup quarter-final.
The Carabao Cup Round of 16 was played way back at the end of September, so you could be forgiven for forgetting both teams’ journey to get here. It was so long ago that Arteta and Arsenal were still being discussed favourably. Now, given the Gunner’s current form, there’s the outside chance that Pep could end his protége’s first managerial job if City were to manage a heavy win.
Reinserting Carabao Cup matches into a heavily congested Christmas fixture schedule is a recipe for disaster when it comes to the fitness of the squad, so I imagine we’ll see as much rotation as Guardiola can allow while still aiming for the win.
Here’s how we think the team will line-up…
It would make sense for Zack Steffan to take the place between the sticks for this one. We haven’t had enough of an opportunity to see how he does on the big stage, and this would be his most important start for Manchester City so far. Meanwhile, Ederson gets a rest ahead of Boxing Day’s game at home to Newcastle.
The full-backs I expect to see are Kyle Walker on the right and Benjamin Mendy on the left. They’ve each started one of the last two games, whereas Cancelo has started both, so will likely be rested. As for Zinchenko, I’m not sure he’s done much to convince the manager to include him in the rotation.
With John Stones in such good form I expect him to keep his place in the side, while Aymeric Laporte finally returns to the starting eleven. At first it seemed like Pep dropped Laporte to the bench to make an example of how important form is. If he doesn’t feature here, the conspiracy theories of something deeper could intensify.
Fernandinho looks like a shoe-in to take up his role as captain in defensive midfield, and alongside him centrally we’ll see Rodrigo yet again. While I personally would like to see someone with a more pace on and off the ball in this position, the Spaniard clearly offers something that makes him un-droppable. Likewise with Kevin De Bruyne who starts in front of them.
Up front I think we’ll see the return of Riyad Mahrez on the right and Gabriel Jesus centrally. The left-wing is more difficult to call, but for my money we see Phil Foden out on this side. While Foden hasn’t been putting in his best performances in recent weeks, he offers more urgency in the final third than some of the other players going through it right now.
Both sides haven’t exactly been firing on all cylinders as of late. This could be one of those games that the winner can use to really build up some momentum at a difficult time of the season.
Substitutes: Ederson, Cancelo, Aké, Dias, Gündogan, Bernardo, Torres, Sterling, Aguero.
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