It’s rotation time. Wednesday night’s momentous game at the Santiago Bernabéu will rightly take priority over tomorrow’s fixture on the south coast. The chance to reach a European Cup final cannot be taken lightly, and I can’t imagine Pellegrini will do anything of the sort. He has an real opportunity to write himself into the history books of this old club, and he will plan to take it.
David Silva is out for 2-3 weeks with the hamstring injury that he suffered on Tuesday night. He won’t kick a ball for Manchester City again this season unless we make the final. Personally, I consider Silva’s absence to be a cruel blow. He was arguably the best player on the pitch for the first half an hour against Real Madrid and has struggled with a debilitating ankle condition throughout the season. David just can’t seem to catch a break.
However, there is some positive injury news in the form of Samir Nasri, who is back in the squad. Given the injury to Silva, this is undoubtedly a real bonus. Jesus Navas could do with a rest after being thoroughly dependable for the last six weeks or so whilst Nasri’s own ineligibility in the Champions League means that he’s an absolute shoe-in to start at St Mary’s. We’ve struggled to control games recently against Newcastle and Real Madrid, so his return is extremely welcome. Such is the nature of extended injury absences in the fast-moving world of modern football, many of us had forgotten just how good an option Samir Nasri actually is. He’s a bonafide top-class footballer, blessed with an almost unrivalled ability to retain possession thanks to his impish brilliance.
Yaya Toure is also out for Sunday, but is back in training so could have a shot of facing Real Madrid.
— City Watch (@City_Watch) April 29, 2016
Expect wholesale changes. Both of the full-backs will switched-out, with Zabaleta and Kolarov both coming in. I imagine Kompany will also sit-out, deputised by the increasingly capable Eliaquim Mangala. Otamendi should keep his place. As for the midfield, Delph HAS to start in central midfield, surely? His best game in a City shirt came against Southampton in the return leg at home in 2015. Fernandinho will need a rest again, given the amount of work he’ll go through on Wednesday, so Delph should be partnered by Fernando.
De Bruyne and Aguero will also get a rest. Nasri will come in on one wing, whilst I imagine the other wide berth will be filled by Raheem Sterling who desperately needs to get some minutes into his legs ahead of Wednesday. Personally, I think Navas will also get a rest – meaning Pellegrini will probably go for a 4-4-2 with Bony (who?) and Kelechi up front. I’m worried this could be a bit of a banana skin. Southampton are an extremely good side and we will undoubtedly have one eye on Wednesday. If we could somehow fashion a win, I’d be ecstatic.
Bearing all that in mind, here’s the team I think Pellegrini will go with:
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