Fresh off the back of a five goal thrashing of Liverpool, Manchester City head into the first of their group stage matches in this year’s Champions League in high spirits. Whilst there’s notably a greater and much more positive team morale around the Etihad in comparison to previous seasons, against ten men or not a City victory never looked in doubt and were in complete control. Yet with a club of City’s size both competing and expected to be successful in four competitions throughout the season, the club’s opening Champions League match against Group F rivals Feyenoord will be interesting to see just how much squad rotation impacts on City’s consistency on the pitch and maintaining the high standards already achieved this season.
The major talking point of the weekend and ever since has of course been Ederson’s injury and consequent sending off of Sadio Mané. In what initially had all the hallmarks of a horrific injury that looked set to sideline the Brazilian for weeks if not months, it was somewhat surprising and more so reassuring to see Ederson surface at the end of Saturday’s game looking at least outwardly okay. Recent pictures of Ederson in training have meanwhile done a lot to quell any fears of a long spell on the sidelines but given the immediacy of a potential return, the quality of City’s opponents, and the severity of a head injury which will at least visibly take some time to fully heal, albeit not the fairytale ending you’d wish for after a nightmare of an injury but I do think that Claudio Bravo will start in goal with Ederson more likely to return for Saturday’s game.
With Vincent Kompany definitely sidelined due to injury, after performing so well at centre-back there is a chance that Danilo could sit alongside Stones and Otamendi in three man central defence. Alternatively, Pep could give Mendy a rest and instead deploy Danilo in his place and consequently revert to a back four with Otamendi and Stones as the central defensive pairing. Eliaquim Mangala could always come in after a rocky first half performance from Otamendi but after being substituted mid-game, I expect the Argentine to feature from the start and put Saturday’s early shaky display behind him.
With this being the opening European away day however, I think Pep may go for a 4-2-3-1 formation. Leroy Sané should also be rewarded for his remarkable performance off the bench against Liverpool and would suit City’s formation playing on the left of an attacking midfield three anchored by De Bruyne in the centre and perhaps even Bernardo Silva on the right, who would have the perfect platform from a starting position to show just what he is capable of doing in a City shirt. For this reason David Silva would of course make way to the City bench for a well deserved rest where he could join Sergio Agüero as Gabriel Jesus would be my preferred choice of the two forwards to lead the City line against Feyenoord. The Brazilian, who is yet to feature for the club in the Champions League, has impressed so far this season and will more than likely be incredibly eager to open his goal-scoring account on the European stage.