It seems a shame to have to write this piece. After all, the line-up doesn’t really matter if there won’t be any City fans at Wembley to actually see it. City have been struggling to sell their 33,000 ticket allocation for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal – the ‘ultimate embarrassment’ according to people who will have their ticket and travel expenses paid for them – and so shame on all of those supporters who don’t have the money spare for a nice 200 mile trek down to London on Sunday.
In fact, and as it has been for a while now, the ‘ultimate embarrassment’ here is that football continues to price out the fans, disregarding the income of certain demographics, time taken to travel to games and travel expenses. How is that out of the four clubs partaking in this weekend’s semi-final clashes, the only club over 12 miles from Wembley Stadium, hailing from a city with an average salary £6,000 lower than the capital’s, is the one getting panned?
Anyway, f*** the lot of them and let’s hope Arsenal get a right good panning this weekend, too.
Vincent Kompany suffered no reaction to playing a full 90 minutes against Southampton and is fully fit to start on Sunday according to reports. That news will delight Pep who saw his defence acquire a strange and mysterious rigidity very rarely seen this season in the 3-0 win at St. Mary’s. The transformation was huge and proof that we still rely very heavily upon our captain.
If Kompany starts, which he should do, it won’t be alongside John Stones. The 22-year-old suffered a muscular injury in training and Guardiola doesn’t know whether he’ll be fit for the United game on Thursday. On the bright side, Nicolás Otamendi’s form has been impressive of late and Pep should feel comfortable enough with the experienced pair lining up together in the centre of defence.
In tremendously exciting news, Gabriel Jesus’ recovery is way ahead of schedule and the Brazilian has traveled with the squad. To displace the free-scoring Sergio Agüero at this stage however would surely be a task too difficult, so I’d expect him to take a place on the bench.
Sterling to return, Navas to drop to the bench?
Raheem Sterling has played only 160 minutes in his last four Premier League games and should expect to start on the right wing. City’s attacking play is certainly more fluid with him in the side, his presence at the back post encouraging Leroy Sané to attack his man and adding a natural width to the team. Sané and Sterling were the architects in City’s 2-1 win over the Gunners at the Etihad in December and I’d be surprised if the pair didn’t line up on either flank, especially on such a wide pitch.
What that could mean is Jesús Navas dropping to the bench. The Spaniard has been a regular fixture for the team this month, charged with covering the entire right side. De Bruyne has started on the wing but his natural inclination to cut inside frees up space for Navas to run into. Pep likes his speed and he’s done a good job, but with Sterling likely to hug the touchline and Alexis Sánchez certain to target his defensive weaknesses, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sagna or Zabaleta were preferred.