Following on from the brief Premier League hiatus as City first booked their place in the Carabao Cup final and then the FA Cup fourth round, Pep Guardiola’s side return to action on Wednesday.
The visitors, Brighton, currently sit 17th in the table, with just three points separating them from the relegation zone. It’s a great opportunity for City to win and pressure current leaders Liverpool – but, as bitter memory of the 1-1 draw to West Brom still lingers in the mind, this no time for complacency.
There is zero chance, thankfully, that Pep will let the opposition’s position influence his lineup. It will be the strongest side possible, and here’s who we think will get the nod…
In goal, Ederson will return to the lineup. He was able to end his self-isolation to return to the bench against Birmingham City on Saturday, which means Zack Steffen will likely see his unexpected run in the team come to an end. The American has displayed his competency, but Ederson’s #1 spot doesn’t look to be under serious threat.
In defence, we can gather some clues from the Birmingham match. Ruben Dias and John Stones both only played 45 minutes, which suggests the duo were being preserved for the full match against Brighton as Pep looks to keep up the formidable partnership developing between the two. Nathan Aké and Aymeric Laporte are out for this one anyway. The full-backs are tougher to call, but Joao Cancelo should feature here, and the other slot will be filled by Kyle Walker, with the Portugal defender on the left-hand side.
In midfield, Ilkay Gundogan is in spectacular form and having been rested at the weekend he will start. Alongside him, I think we’ll see Bernardo Silva – who scored two excellent goals v Brighton, with both undoubtedly being up there as the best we’ll score all season – and Rodri. Fernandinho has shown good form recently but I suspect he’ll have to settle for a place on the bench for this one, with Rodri an ever-present when it comes to the Premier League.
Further forward, Sergio Agüero has been forced to self-isolate, which rules him out. Gabriel Jesus returned to action v Birmingham and while he looked sharp I thought he let selfishness in front of goal get the better of him. Maybe as a result of that, I reckon Kevin De Bruyne will get the nod in a false-nine role. Next to him, Raheem Sterling has been confirmed fit and should start as he usually does. The final place will go to Riyad Mahrez, who played one of the best passes you’ll see all season to set up the second goal v Birmingham. Phil Foden has been in terrific form but my suspicion is he’ll be making do with an appearance off the bench, as he often does sadly!
Substitutes: Zack Steffen, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Luke Mbete, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Benjamin Mendy, Fernandinho, F. Nmecha, Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus.
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