Rather than focus on a good Arsenal performance on Sunday, or Chelsea in the other semi-final, mainstream media centered the attention back to Pep, who will suffer his inevitable first season in management without a trophy. The papers critiqued City in many ways for this damning, season-defining loss on Sunday which piles the pressure on this City side, so what better than a game against a United side who look to be hitting their best form of the season?
It’s not all doom and gloom, however – a win tomorrow night would surely pencil our place in next seasons Champions League, or the qualifying round at least. The win would see us leapfrog Liverpool into third, but more importantly would re-establish a four-point gap to United in fifth.
City carry a number of injury concerns, but both teams are in the same boat as Mourinho’s men are without Ibrahimovic, Pogba, Rojo, Smalling and Jones. David Silva and Agüero both limped off during the defeat at Wembley on Sunday, and it seems Silva is highly doubtful. Agüero on the other hand is more likely to start than not.
Gabriel Jesus has been declared fit enough to start by Pep, but he is ‘unsure’ about whether this will happen.
John Stones was ruled out of the team for the last two games, and Pep mysteriously didn’t mention him in his press conference, so it is expected that he will remain on the sidelines for this one.
Aside from this, Gündoğan remains out and is still a while away from recovery.
Starting from the back, it seems Bravo will get the nod ahead of Caballero again in goal. Luckily, he wasn’t to blame for either goal on Sunday, although he still remains to be criticised as he lacks that ‘game-changing save’.
I also expect Pep to elect the same back four as the last two outings – Navas, Kompany, Otamendi and Clichy. If Stones is fit, he may get the nod ahead of Otamendi, but his fitness seems unlikely. Jesus Navas is Pep’s latest experiment, probably following Sagna and Zabaleta struggling to prove consistent fitness.
For a couple of months, the midfield and front three picked itself, but with Silva doubtful and Sterling seemingly out of favour, nothing would surprise me come the team announcement tomorrow. I thought Yaya was one of our better players on Sunday, so I expect him to retain his place alongside either Fernandinho or Delph, who has impressed when selected. Delph may just get the nod ahead of the Brazilian due to both being fresher, and Fernandinho’s poor form of late.
Pep hinted at playing Jesus and Agüero together in a two, but it would be a huge risk noting Gabriel’s fitness and the magnitude of the game. With Silva’s absence likely, I imagine Sterling will return on the right hand side, with De Bruyne being moved back into a central role. Sané is likely to keep his place on the left despite a poor display on Sunday, for his standards.
Here’s the starting XI I’m going for in the derby: