Manchester City faced a difficult FA Cup Fifth Round tie away at a Huddersfield Town side full of confidence and playing in front of a record crowd. Given Pep’s changes, which again exposed a genuine lack of squad depth at City, and the environment, a draw wasn’t the worst result. Since then, Guardiola has taken his men to Abu Dhabu to recover, while Huddersfield are engaged in a busy period of fixtures as they seek promotion to the Premier League. The Terriers will be without their manager, David Wagner, tomorrow, as he is serving a two-match touchline ban.
The big news coming out of Pep’s presser today is that club captain Vincent Kompany still isn’t fit. The skipper wasn’t involved in full training in Abu Dhabi nor was he pictured in the training photos back at the CFA on Monday. It could feasibly be another week or two before he’s back in the matchday squad.
Vincent Kompany is not fit to face Huddersfield tomorrow, Pep confirms. The skipper will be 'fit soon'. pic.twitter.com/0ssCBz6xJN
— City Watch (@City_Watch) February 28, 2017
In better news, Aleks Kolarov and Gaël Clichy (yippee) are both fit again to bolster Pep’s defensive options. So poor was Otamendi last Tuesday night that Kolarov can probably now be regarded as our first-choice left centre-back. It’s strange even typing that, but Pep is clearly a fan of the Serb so we had better get used to it. He’s played more Premier League minutes than any other player in our squad. Quite remarkable, really.
Rotation: how much?
With a number of big games on the horizon, Pep will be looking to strike a fine balance between winning the game and not playing too many of his first-teamers. Post-Huddersfield, City have four games in fourteen days – which includes a trip to the Stade Louis II and the visit of Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Pep will be wary of burnout, so I’d don’t expect we’ll see a full-strength side.
I think both Kolarov and Clichy will return, with the latter at left-back and the former to be partnered by Otamendi. In midfield, I think it’ll be very similar to what we saw at the John Smith’s Stadium, with De Bruyne for Delph being the only exception. Last Saturday’s game represented a big chance for Delph in what was a very rare start, but he fluffed his lines. I still think Delph could be a useful player for Pep (if he can stay fit, get a run of games, play himself into some decent form – all of which are things Delph hasn’t actually been able to do at City, making this all very unlikely), but the clock is ticking on his City career, and fast.
Up front, I think we could see a rare appearance for Kelechi Iheanacho, the forgotten man. It’s amazing to think that little more than a year has passed since he scored that excellent hat-trick at Villa Park in the fourth round of this very competition. I remember getting very excited about him that day, contemplating the career he could have with City.
But football is a brutal and ever-evolving industry and it’s therefore unsurprising that Kelechi now finds himself even further down the pecking order, with the (now-injured) footballing god Gabriel Jesus in his way. Kelechi’s last appearance was over a month ago – a 28 minute cameo off the bench in that humbling defeat at Goodison Park. If he gets a chance on Wednesday night, he sure as hell has to take it.
Bearing all that in mind, here’s the team I think Pep will go with: