The consensus among City fans seems to be that it will be a relief when this campaign comes to an end tomorrow in Wales. It’s almost two months to the day since most agreed City were out of the title race once and for all. It is just not good enough, especially when you look at the teams above us. Rewind to August and most expected City would be fighting for the title come May, but instead we’ve been involved in a struggle for top four. Thanks to United’s slip-up against West Ham, we’re almost there, but any City fan who has been around the block knows to take nothing for granted.
It will be Manuel Pellegrini’s final game in charge as City boss tomorrow and a draw will be enough for him to leave on a positive note, having secured Champions League qualification for his successor Pep Guardiola. A defeat and United win would seriously tarnish any legacy the Chilean has left at City, but the odds are heavily in our favour and without trying to jinx it, we really should have enough to get over the line.
City are without the often-injured duo of Vincent Kompany and David Silva for the trip to Swansea, while Zabaleta’s season and possibly his fantastic City career is over. Aleks Kolarov was reported to be a major doubt, with a late fitness test planned, and the Serb is another we may never see wear the City shirt again. Despite three or four absentees, City have a very strong cast to call upon, enough that Pellegrini will have a selection dilemma.
Swansea plan to rest several players and will lose another for unusual reasons. Wales pair Ashley Williams and Neil Taylor are rested with Euro 2016 in mind, as are goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and 11-goal star man Gylfi Sigurdsson. Yesterday we learned that Ki Sung-yueng has been called home to South Korea to take part in military service, sending reds on Twitter into a mini-meltdown, with some cries of “match-fixing!”. Jefferson Montero and Alberto Paloschi are both out with hamstring injuries, meaning Swansea will be weakened. But it is important to remember they were missing some of these names last week and battered West Ham at Upton Park.
Attack or caution?
Fernando made the strange comment yesterday that City will go for the win because third place is still in sight. The problem there is that it’d require Aston Villa to win a football match, against Arsenal no less, and that just isn’t going to happen. I’d hope Pellegrini realises that too, and doesn’t go too gung-ho, because as previously mentioned a weakened Swansea team managed to put West Ham to the sword last weekend, and are capable of a good performance. And remember, a draw would do us just fine tomorrow.
Pellegrini has started Kelechi Iheanacho in the last few league games, but with there being no great urgency for a win I think he may opt for one up-front. That man will be Sergio Agüero, who still has a chance to win the Golden Boot for a second year running. Behind him, Kevin De Bruyne is a certainty to start, hopefully in the number 10 role where he can do so much damage. Jesús Navas, a Pellegrini favourite, will be on the right as always. That leaves a spot for Raheem Sterling or Samir Nasri on the left. This is tough, as something certainly seems amiss with Nasri after his mysterious absence last weekend and Pellegrini dodging questions about him. Will he even be in the squad tomorrow? I’m guessing here and going for Nasri to be among the subs.
The midfield two is a tough one. There is a big chance tomorrow will be the last ever City appearance for the great Yaya Touré, but will Pellegrini start him after opting for Fernando and Fernandinho last weekend? I’m going for ‘yes’, with Yaya and Fernandinho paired together. This would be harsh on Fernando, who was outstanding against Arsenal, but I can just see Manuel going with that Yaya-Fernandinho pairing that brought him so much joy in his most successful season here.
At the back, it’s easy. Clichy, Mangala, Otamendi and Sagna will start, with Joe Hart gunning for yet another Golden Glove award between the sticks.
Bearing all that in mind, here’s the team I think Pellegrini will go with:
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