Stoke City visit the Etihad on Saturday hoping to find a way to stem this free-flowing Guardiola attack. Ahead of kick-off, here’s my predicted City team…
The international break is finally over and City, scattered across the globe for the past fortnight, will need to reunite to beat Stoke City, who managed to grind out a 0-0 draw in this fixture last season. But Mark Hughes’ side, who are missing some important players, will not be expecting the same result again. They scored late to beat Southampton 2-1 last time out.
Benjamin Mendy is, of course, out injured for City. Vincent Kompany is also unavailable but will return soon according to the boss. Outside of that, Pep Guardiola can choose from his full first team, although he must take fitness into account after a busy international period for his players. Sergio Aguero is ready to return after suffering serious rib damage in a car crash last month.
The hardest position to pick is the goalkeeper. Will it be Claudio Bravo? Aro Muric? Daniel Grimshaw? Brian Kidd? I actually think Guardiola will surprise us here and go with Ederson. I don’t know what gives me that impression, but he seems to be something of a world-class ‘keeper and that might give him the edge.
In front of the Brazilian, John Stones is a shoe-in. Arguably our best defender this season, I’m sure John will be ready to shed his cagoule and step into the heart of the back-line against the Potters. Partnering him, I’d expect Nicolas Otamendi to get the nod after some impressive displays in recent weeks. Kyle Walker is the obvious choice on the right while Fabian Delph is surely Pep’s best option for a left-back spot that has now been vacated twice in three weeks by injury.
Fernandinho will need to brush off the effects of midweek travel to once again take his place in front of the defence. For as long as the Brazilian is fit, he will remain an indispensable asset to the team this season and I’d be shocked if he isn’t starting against Stoke. Ahead of him, I predict David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne will look to continue their domineering partnership in central midfield this season, with eight league assists between them already.
The front three is difficult to accurately predict, but I think it’ll be some arrangement of Leroy Sané, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus leading the line. For the sake of this prediction, I’ll say Sané will be on the left and Sterling on the right, with Jesus making runs through the middle.
On the bench, Claudio Bravo will almost certainly be playing back-up alongside Eliaquim Mangala and Danilo. Yaya Touré is still looking to get back into Pep’s good books, while Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero can offer attacking alternatives should they be needed. It’s a big game coming up, but City know they have the talent to take all three points.
Agree with my team? Feel free to leave feedback below.