Manchester City finished off a perfect week with a 6-0 win away at Watford at the weekend. 15 goals scored and none conceded in the past 3 games have given fans a glimpse of what Pep Guardiola is capable of with the right players and that excitement is sure to be carried into the Carabao Cup fixture against West Brom tomorrow.
Pep will be keen to continue his team’s great run of form but has shown in the past that he considers the League Cup to be lower down on his list of competitive priorities. His decision to field a weakened side against United last season, in order to rest a number of key players, cost the Blues a chance of winning the trophy that Pellegrini secured twice in his tenure.
For the first time in his career, last year Guardiola finished a season trophy-less and could well feel he has something to prove this time around. A strong team would show his intention in the competition and City have the depth to field a good side whilst also rotating key personnel.
I expect Claudio Bravo to make his first start of the season, coming in for Ederson who is still wearing protective headgear after the Mané challenge the other week.
With Vincent Kompany still apparently recovering from an injury, a back four is likely with Stones and Otamendi partnering up again in the centre. Mendy still looks like he’s gaining fitness and so I expect him to start on the left with Danilo returning to the team on the right to give Kyle Walker a rest.
Kevin De Bruyne seems to be the untouchable in this team and the fact he came off so early in the Watford game suggests that Pep is planning to play him in this game too. Fernandinho has started every game this season and could probably do with a rest and with Gundogan’s substitute appearance at Vicarage Road I could see him ready to return to the line-up for this one. Alongside him, I think David Silva will be given a rest and Bernardo Silva will play in his place to get some valuable minutes in the early stages of his City career.
Up-front I think Pep will have a hard time dropping Aguero after his hat-trick at the weekend and so expect him to lead the line with Sterling and Sané – who surely has to start this one – on the wings. Although Aguero and Jesus are striking up a serious partnership at the moment I think Pep wants to test out his other tactical options and save the young Brazilian for the weekend Premier League fixture against Palace.
Hot prospects Brahim and Phil Foden will likely take up places on the bench and – if things are going well – will hopefully get a few minutes to show what they can do. However, predicting a Pep line-up is never an easy task and we don’t really know how serious he takes this competition yet so who knows what could happen. This, I think, is a good option to play a strong team with some rotation and give some players a chance to play who would be desperate for some game time.