Venue: Liberty Stadium
Date: 21 September 2016
Referee: Keith Stroud
Kick off: 19:45
UK TV: Not on TV.
Pep Guardiola and Manchester City made it eight out of eight on Saturday, and it’s beginning hammer home the question: when will we finally drop a game?
However, a midweek trip to Swansea could be about to test City’s win streak. With Pep expected to change things drastically, it’ll likely be up to a team without some key starters to get the job done and make it nine out of nine. So, what is there to consider?
Can a Team of Second-Choices Get It Done?
Before I begin, I should explain that I am fully aware of City’s strength in depth. We have virtually two players for every position, and all of those players look more than capable of doing their job. However, if Pep does ring the changes and start with a completely different XI, I have my doubts about how they’ll cope in Wales on Wednesday night. We’ve seen it once already this season; the Steaua Bucharest game at the Etihad. Granted, City had no real reason to exert a lot of energy on that match, but things still looked slightly lacklustre. This seems especially true in the middle of the park, where a downgrade from Fernandinho to Fabian Delph or Yaya Toure is particularly apparent. In the attacking midfield slots, we’ve seen the likes of Jesus Navas disappoint far too often in games like this. In fairness, there’s absolutely no guarantee that Swansea will play their first XI, and should they not, our team of potential inexperience or downright second-choices would have a much stronger chance. Nonetheless, I’m expecting a tricky game on Wednesday and one that City might only just struggle over the line in.
A Chance to Change Pep’s Thinking
Whilst there are a few players who are unlikely to force their way into the regular XI, this game does provide a chance for a couple of the younger guys. Aleix Garcia will be hoping for a start, after impressing in his cameo at the weekend. An accomplished performance would perhaps allow him to establish himself as City’s most reliable option in the pivot position after Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan. A feat that would be particularly impressive when you consider that the likes of Yaya Toure and Fernando are still waiting in the wings. On the right hand side, it’s hard to see anything but a start for Leroy Sané, who has only had around 60-70 minutes in total to impress so far. With Nolito suspended for this match, the German has an excellent opportunity to stake a claim for a starting berth in City’s XI for the league game at Swansea on Saturday. A surprise inclusion in City’s starting XI could be Vincent Kompany. Our Belgian skipper found himself on the bench for the visit of Bournemouth on Saturday. If Vinnie is fit enough to play even an hour, this would seem like the perfect game to bring him in from the cold for. As it is, predicting tomorrow night’s starting XI will be a difficult task for anybody, with a reshuffle extremely likely.
How Much of a Priority is the League Cup?
For many a manager, the League Cup fixtures simply represent an opportunity to rest your overworked first-teamers and perhaps lend some fitness to those players on the injury comeback trail. But, should we be taking the competition more seriously? My favourite day of last season was the League Cup final against Liverpool, Willy Caballero proved the unlikely hero and City lifted the trophy. Are we really too good to at least take the competition a little bit seriously? Not for me. A trophy is a trophy, and a competition where few of the ‘big’ sides will take it seriously seems like a fantastic opportunity to win one. I’m not suggesting Pep plays his league XI outright, I understand the need for rotation. However, it’d be nice to see City play strong sides nonetheless, with an array of talent at our disposal who are fit enough to play two games in a week. What would be disappointing would be to see City play an XI of misfits, sending out the message that a loss would be no big deal. I know to some that it wouldn’t, but even with the best coach in the world in charge it’d be nice to see City take every cup competition seriously.
Who Can Hurt Us?
I mentioned earlier the difficulty of predicting either XI for tomorrow night’s game. So, this particular section of the preview becomes more difficult than ever. As it is, I like Modou Barrow. The young winger has the pace and trickery to cause our full-backs plenty of trouble. I’ve been very impressed every time I’ve seen him play. Barrow and Montero is a very decent wing pairing.
With all the changes that Pep is expected to make, I’m expecting a sticky game on Wednesday. Still though, City’s second string should have enough for what may not even be Swansea’s first XI. I’m predicting a win by a goal. 2-1 City.
Predict the score:
[statsfc-score-predictor key=”D8SJIk7F6vySBuDaFQRSHy11xfbyCt18uXRinj2b” team=”Man City” date=”2016-09-21″ default_css=”true”]