Just like last weekend, the results have gone for us. Liverpool slipped-up (again) away at Hull whilst Chelsea put Arsenal to the sword at Stamford Bridge. The title is out of our reach now, let’s be honest – this Chelsea side aren’t going to enough points to let anyone else back in.
For what must surely be the first time this season – Pep Guardiola confirmed that we have a fully fit squad (minus Gündogan) for the visit of Swansea of tomorrow. Long-term absentees Fabian Delph and Vincent Kompany have both racked-up minutes in recent games and are nearing full fitness, which is extremely positive given the Champions League is about to return and our FA Cup 5th round tie is only around the corner. Our strength in depth will be crucial over these next few weeks so it’s vital the likes of Kompany and Delph get minutes in their legs.
Agüero to return?
The big talking point after the demolition of West Ham was whether Sergio Agüero’s days at City are numbered. Having watched the performance of Gabriel Jesus from the bench, there’s no doubt that Aguero will have been concerned. Jesus was absolutely electric. He did everything that Guardiola wants his forwards to do – he pressed tenaciously, was calm in ‘the build up’ and was unselfish in possession, laying-on De Bruyne’s goal with a perfectly weighted pass. The worry for Agüero is that Jesus looks like the real deal right now. Not tomorrow, not ‘one for the future’, but a star for the here and now.
The manner in which Pep spoke about Jesus’ talents in Friday’s press conference was telling, his enthusiasm notable, as he discussed Jesus’ qualities off the ball and talked about the team since his arrival. Jesus has clearly won Pep over already. However, whilst I’ve been critical about Agüero’s performances and goal record in the big games this season, I still think he has an absolutely huge part to play. Strikers like Agüero are a very, very rare commodity and are worth their weight in goal. And whilst I do believe that Kun will have felt threatened watching from the bench on Wednesday, I also think that we’ll see the best of Agüero because of it.
For the first time in his City career Agüero’s first-team place is genuinely under threat. We’ve had some excellent strikers at this club in recent times – the likes of Tevez, Balotelli and Dzeko, who were all fantastic forwards in their own right – but none of them posed a serious threat to Agüero’s position as the number one. Personally, I think that this kind of pressure and competition can only be a positive thing. Agüero might be quite a relaxed character, but he’s an elite footballer at the end of the day – and all elite footballers have an innate drive and desire, and I think Agüero’s no different.
Sterling and Sané to start?
With regards to selection itself, I think Agüero will start. Pep’s comments (after the West Ham game and on Friday, before Swansea) suggest as such. The difficulty is who Pep plays either of side Kun. Sterling and Sané have been in scintillating form of late and thus I’d be very reluctant to mess with them. Jesus of course, will feel extremely hard done by if he’s dropped to the bench – but I think that’s what will happen.
Elsewhere, I think we’ll see Fernandinho come back in for Toure, who should drop to the bench. Toure’s been incredible of late. His turnaround has been remarkable really, but he’s played a lot of football recently so I think it’s time for Ferna to come back in. In central defence, I think Vincent Kompany will get another start. It’s been a week since he played at Palace so I imagine we’ll see him again. Who partners him is anyone’s guess, but I’m going for John Stones.
In goal, I expect (and hope) to see Caballero get the nod.
Bearing all that in mind, here’s the team I think Pep will go with: