Ninety minutes away from a Champions League semi-final, what an absolute madness. Given how this season has gone, it’s crazy to think that we’re only three games away from a European final. It should be a wonderful atmosphere at the Etihad too – our biggest ever European gate, beating the previous record (excluding the Juventus fixture) of 49,665 from 1969 when we hosted Athletic Bilbao at Maine Road. Personally, I still think £60 is excessive, but I don’t begrudge anyone who has chosen to go to match. It’s a personal choice and I really hope the fans can whip-up an intimidating atmosphere akin to the Hamburg fixture in 2009.
The big team news ahead of this momentous fixture is that Vincent Kompany will not be involved. The captain took part in Monday morning’s training session at the CFA seemingly without any problems, but Pellegrini has insisted that Kompany is “not 100% fit.” There’s a small part of me still expecting to see his name on the team sheet tomorrow evening in the hope that this is just a bluff, but Pellegrini isn’t really one to play games. Let’s wait and see.
Strangely though, Pellegrini did confirm that Nicolas Otamendi is fit to play, despite rolling his ankle against West Brom and not sitting-out of training on Monday. He better had be fit, as the thought of Martin Demichelis vs. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is making me feel very unwell. The only other injury news is that Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure all trained without problem and are available for selection.
For me, Pellegrini has two big calls to make: does he play three central midfielders, and David Silva or Jesus Navas? To answer the first question, I think he has to play Fernando, Fernandinho and Yaya. Where he decides to position them on the pitch is an entirely different question. But, with the two away goals in the bag, I think it’s imperative we play all three for the purposes of solidity and as a means of trying to control the game a little more.
With regards the second question, I think Navas will get the nod. The nippy Spaniard (the fast one) has been in excellent form lately and with the prospect of extra time a real possibility, I think Silva could be extremely useful off the bench. We’ve been at our best in Europe when we’ve played quick, incisive football and I think if that’s the approach we want to continue with, then Silva is the obvious one to drop-out. It’s a really tough call in all honesty and I one I don’t envy Pellegrini for having to make. I just think a front three of Silva – Aguero – De Bruyne could be a little one-dimensional.
Bearing all that in mind, here’s the team I think Pellegrini will go with:
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