There will be no room for error tomorrow night when FC Barcelona visit the Etihad. On their two previous trips to Manchester, they not only walked away with wins, but also clean sheets. Guardiola has to get the balance right – a potent attacking unit, but also a solid defensive structure that can somehow limit the damage Messi, Neymar and Suarez are capable of inflicting on sides. With very few injuries to worry about, Guardiola has plenty of talent to choose from – so what is the ideal lineup to face the mighty Barça?
Once again, there’s no new team news to report. Fabian Delph is still absolutely nowhere to be seen whilst Sagna and Zabaleta remain short of match fitness. Zabaleta seems closer to a return of the two and is back in full training, but is unlikely to be involved against Barcelona. Guardiola said in his press conference that “we must approach the game as if we don’t have right-backs” – which I feel is pretty self explanatory.
Three at the back?
The big question, then, is whether Pep goes for Fernando / Maffeo at right-back or whether he goes for the three at the back again? My guess is that he’ll go for three at the back again. The clamour to play Maffeo at right-back on Saturday was palpable but Pep decided against it, citing West Brom’s physicality as the main reason. Although Barcelona present an entirely different footballing challenge, I’d be extremely surprised if Pep threw the 19 year-old in on Tuesday night.
The other big decision Pep has to make concerns his captain – should he play Vincent Kompany? Since his most recent return from injury, Kompany has managed 76 minutes against Southampton last Sunday and 45 minutes in the EFL Cup derby at Old Trafford. Against West Brom at the weekend, he watched the game from the bench which was yet another clear sign that caution is the key word when we talk about Vincent Kompany.
Having said that though, and given that he won’t have played competitively for almost a week come the Barcelona game – I think he’ll start. It’s a massive risk, and I’m not sure it’s one that I’d take in Pep’s circumstances but I think everything is set-up for him to start as the central player in a back three, with Otamendi and Stones either side of him.
Ahead of the defence, I think we’ll see the same attacking players as at the Camp Nou – with only one exception, and that’s Sergio Aguero. He’s often struggled against Barcelona, our Serg, but I’ve got a good feeling about Tuesday night. It’s been a long while since Aguero took a Champions League game by the scruff of the neck, particularly against top-class opposition, but I think that could be all about to change. Here’s hoping!
With all that in mind, here is how I think City will line up:
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