Tomorrow’s Manchester derby has crept up on us with very little hype, in the midst of a busy series of fixtures. In a way, it is a relief after the endless build-up for the first City vs. United game of the season in September, which saw the Blues march into Old Trafford and come away with a 2-1 win.
Chapter two of Pep vs. Jose in Manchester is, shall we say, a slightly less exciting prospect. The renamed League Cup, now the EFL Cup, is always nice to win but never top of anyone’s list of priorities. As such, we can probably expect heavy rotation from the Manchester giants tomorrow night.
The big injury news is that Kevin De Bruyne isn’t fit after he picked-up a knock against Southampton, and is a doubt for West Brom at the weekend. Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna are both still out, which gives Pep a massive headache at right-back – play Pablo Maffeo in a Manchester derby, or continue with three at the back? The only other absentee is the perennially injured Fabian Delph.
It’s a really tough one to call, this. As a fan, I want to see our best XI on the pitch every time we play United. I hate the bastards. But equally, I understand the position that Pep is in. Key players need a rest and with Barcelona just around the corner, there’s no way we’ll see a full strength side tomorrow night. My guess is that we’ll see a heavily rotated team with a few youngsters thrown-in for good measure.
So, starting from the back. Goalkeeper: Caballero is a dead cert – Pep confirmed as much in his press conference this morning. At centre-half I imagine that it’ll be Otamendi and Kompany, with the Captain looking to get another 60-70 minutes under his belt after his successful return vs. Southampton. Clichy will probably get the nod over Kolarov at left-back whilst at right-back, I think we’ll see Pablo Maffeo. Pep will undoubtedly be nervous about throwing him in against our biggest rivals away from home, but I think the injuries necessitate it. Against any one else at this stage of the EFL Cup he’d start, so I think he might just get the nod.
In midfield, I think we’ll see Fernando, Aleix Garcia and another – who that’s likely to be I’m not quite sure. The injury to De Bruyne means that it’s effectively a straight choice between Silva and Gündogan and there are arguments to be made for the two. Gündogan needs minutes under his belt to regain his match sharpness, whilst Silva’s experience in big games for City could be absolutely crucial, especially when you consider the midfield behind him. Pep probably would’ve wanted to give them both a rest if he had things his ways, but given the circumstances one of them has to play. I’m going for Silva.
The attack is probably the easiest to pick. It pretty much picks itself. Kelechi up top, fresh from another goal as a substitute, Navas on the right and Nolito on the left. Pep’s decision to opt for Sterling and Sané at the weekend means that a change-around is almost certain.
With all that in mind, here is how I think City will line up:
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