I think I can safely say that this is one of the easiest team predictions I’ve had to make, given the incessant injury problems and the nature of this game being the first of a two-legged tie. Despite his previously gung-ho and naive approach in Europe, Pellegrini seems to have learnt that caution pays off. The system encompassing 3 central midfielders in Seville was an overwhelming success. The key to the Champions League is to build a strong foundation at the back, be concise in possession and make the pitch as wide as possible. The lack of a Jesus Navas makes that final point more difficult, but in Raheem Sterling, City have a player who has proven himself on the European stage this season.
The only injury news is that Eliaquim Mangala is fit again and is available for selection. Expect him to take-up a place on the bench though, with Otamendi partnering the fit-again Vincent Kompany – how good does that sound? There is some confusion around the fitness of Bacary Sagna, with the official site insisting he is fit to play, despite Pellegrini’s silence on the issue. Joking aside though, this could well prove to be a crucial factor tonight. Sagna has long been a favourite of Pellegrini’s in Europe, often preferred to the more cavalier Zabaleta. His unavailability would therefore come as a bit of a blow. Sagna is after all, a superior defender to Zabaleta, and in the heat of the Champions League knockouts that’s often what matters.
Brandon Barker and Manu Garcia both made the trip to Kiev and will make-up the numbers of the bench given our injury woes. Kolarov’s defensive horror-show at Stamford Bridge (not for the first time, I might add) means that Clichy will almost certainly be given the nod at the left-back. The Frenchman’s form of late has been encouraging, and whilst there are obvious weaknesses to his game he is undoubtedly the more secure option at left-back.
Bearing all that in mind, here is the team I think Pellegrini will go with:
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