It’s been a remarkably calm and assured start to the Pep Guardiola era at City, with four wins from four and a potentially tricky Champions League double header with Steaua Bucharest handled with ease. I must admit, I was pretty worried after that shambles of a pre-season that we had, but things seems to be falling nicely into place even if there are still a few teething problems. Sunderland posed little attacking threat when they visited the Etihad, playing a David Moyes special – the unambitious deep-lying 4-5-1. Oh the joys. The same can’t be said for Sunday’s opponents though, West Ham, who despite their poor start to the season are expected to welcome Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini back into the squad and could even have Simone Zaza signed in time to make his Hammers debut.
Remarkably, there isn’t much team news to report. In his press conference today, Pep Guardiola confirmed that ‘everyone is fit’ for the game with West Ham after 30 (!) senior players completed Friday’s training session. That being said, Guardiola did confirm that Claudio Bravo will NOT start against West Ham as he’s only had one full day of training with his new teammates, which means that Bravo will make his first appearance in a City shirt against the old enemy at Old Trafford. What a debut that will be.
Ilkay Gündogan and Vincent Kompany have both been back in full training for around 10 days now which is extremely encouraging, but I wouldn’t expect to see them in a matchday squad until after the international break. The same cannot be said for Leroy Sané though, who had a much less serious injury (a slight hamstring strain). Sané was reportedly close to making the bench on Wednesday night against Bucharest so I’d hedge my bets and say that he he’ll be involved in some capacity at the weekend, which would be fantastic.
The only other bit of injury news is that Kelechi Iheanacho is fine, despite his injury scare the other night. On Kelechi, Pep said: “His injury was almost nothing so it was only a scare. He is fine [and he trained today].”
Same team as Bucharest away?
I’m sure this will come back to bite me, but I think this could be the easiest Pep Guardiola side we’ll predict all season. With the key trio of Kompany, Gündogan and Sane all lacking in fitness, I anticipate that Pep will go with the same team that started in Bucharest. Sagna’s injury means that Zabaleta is a dead-cert for the right back slot whilst Pep’s comments on Kolarov today coupled with his general appreciation for the Serbian mean that he’ll likely get the nod at left back, with Stones and Otamendi the centre halves.
Nolito and Sterling have both enjoyed excellent starts to the season and will expect to keep their places, flanking the triumvirate of Silva – Aguero – De Bruyne. All that being said, here’s the team I think Pep will go with:
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