Manchester City go into the last of three home games on the bounce knowing that a win would all but secure a top four place, and be a huge step in terms of gaining third place, baring in mind this is the game in hand over current third-place occupants Liverpool. After a 2-1 victory at the weekend over the former Champions Leicester, City host a West Brom side who are having their best top-flight season in a long time.
As mentioned, Tony Pulis’ side will travel to the Etihad looking to end their positive season in style. Chelsea won the league at the Hawthorns on Friday night, but I thought West Brom looked a very decent outfit, and probably should’ve took the lead a couple of times on the counter-attack.
Claudio Bravo and Ilkay Gündogan are still on the sidelines for Tuesdays clash, and Pep confirmed today that Fabian Delph is also out for the remainder of the campaign with a ‘leg injury’, so contrary to popular beliefs, Fabian is still alive and well.
It isn’t all bad news on the injury front, as John Stones has a good four or five days of training under his belt now, following his absence from the lineups. Sergio Agüero managed fifteen or so minutes at the weekend, so will be in contention to start tomorrow night.
As for West Brom, Pulis confirmed this morning that Gareth McAuley and Matt Phillips will miss the trip to the Etihad. McAuley will be a big miss for the away side, as he is a natural leader in the defence.
A Champions League spot is the most important thing at stake tomorrow night, however it will be a special night for City fans for another reason. Fan-favourite Pablo Zabaleta ended much speculation by announcing he will be leaving City at the end of the season following nine brilliant seasons at the club. City fans will take to the Etihad to pay homage to a true blue – that will be remembered for his passion on and off the pitch.
I hope, and think, that Pep will opt to start Zabaleta from the off, given this will be his last chance to play in front of a home crowd in sky blue. If Vincent is kind enough, which he is, Zaba may also get to wear the captains’ armband.
Who else will get the nod?
Gabriel Jesus was selected ahead of Sergio again on Saturday, yet this was probably down to Sergio’s latest injury. I expect that Pep will rotate and start Agüero tomorrow night. On his last outing against West Brom, Sergio netted a brace, with two fantastic finishes in a 4-0 away win in November.
The question on many City fans lips in the last week or two has been ‘Do we have our captain back?’ The answer to that is slowly evolving from a ‘lets not get ahead of ourselves’ to ‘maybe’, culminating in a wary ‘yes, we do!’ Vincent has strung together an impressive run of games in the last six weeks or so, yet I think with Stones being back, Pep may have doubts in his mind. If there was nothing to fight for, Kompany would most certainly be rested, but I think Pep will start him again. Stones may just get the nod over Otamendi, who has been solid of late, yet was poor for the goal at the weekend.
Yaya Touré played one of his best games of the season on Saturday, so if Pep thinks he has the legs to do so, he will start him again ahead of Fernandinho. I can also see Guardiola opting for Kolarov over Clichy, who was terrible at the weekend. The thought behind this being that Kolarov is more solid, to match West Brom’s physical and tall side.