Testament to the volatility of this truly bizarre Premier League season, and only a week since that disheartening defeat at the Emirates, we already find ourselves pondering the possibility of leapfrogging Leicester in the league table. A six-point swing in the space of two games? Who’d have thought things could change so quickly in football?
After suffering yet another niggling calf injury, Vincent Kompany is again unavailable for selection. This news comes as a real blow to Manuel Pellegrini, who had hoped to have his captain fit and firing ahead of the grueling winter fixtures. Poised to play his first game since 8th November, and having been heralded as the answer to the side’s defensive woes, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the Etihad, as Kompany readied himself to come on. But his appearance was little more than a cameo in truth, leaving the manager in that familiar old position of only having three central defenders to pick from.
The other major injury news ahead of the Leicester game concerns the treatment table’s other frequent visitor: Sergio Aguero. In his most recent post-match press conference, Pellegrini confirmed that Aguero had been suffering with a knock, but should be “100% fit against Leicester.” The Argentine completed full training with the squad on Monday morning, so expect him to feature in the starting line-up on Tuesday night. Pablo Zabaleta and Fernando have also returned to full training, but are not expected to be named in the matchday squad on Tuesday night.
The majority of the team picks itself, in all honesty. Otamendi and Mangala will almost certainly be named as the centre halves, whilst it is also extremely difficult to envisage Silva, Sterling or De Bruyne missing-out after their performances against Sunderland.
I suppose the big question facing Pellegrini ahead of the game, is whether to employ a more cautious approach and play Fabian Delph, or whether to go toe-to-toe with Leicester. Personally, given the success of Arsenal’s approach at the King Power, and the contrasting fortunes experienced by United and Chelsea, I’d set up to out-play and out-score Ranieri’s side.
All that being said, here is the team I think Pellegrini will go with:
Coming off the back of their first league defeat in nine games, and with Vardy and Mahrez suffering from a fever and fatigue respectively, Leicester are about as vulnerable as they’re likely to be. We need to wrestle back the initiative in this title race – and that needs to start with us getting the three points tomorrow.