Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 21 November 2017
Referee: Ivan Kružliak
Kick off: 19:45
After a spectacular run of 16 wins on the bounce, Pep Guardiola will be wondering whether or not his City side are capable of recording win number 17 on Tuesday. The Blues face Feyenoord in the fifth of their six UEFA Champions League games. Following a hugely impressive four wins in a row in the competition, including an excellent double over Napoli, the focus will now turn to whether or not City can make it a clean five out of five. With City already qualified, many of the topics will centre around who Guardiola chooses for selection on Tuesday night. So, what are the main talking points ahead of the game?
A Change of Team Completely
On Saturday, City recorded a hard-fought victory against Leicester, and they didn’t have it all their own way. The Blues could’ve debatably been down to ten men within three minutes at the King Power Stadium, after Vincent Kompany brought down Jamie Vardy as the England striker looked to go through on goal. Leicester probed, but were unable to get through the City defence. Eventually, a silky combination of Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Gabriel Jesus unpicked the Foxes backline and City never really looked back. Following the game, Pep Guardiola said that he would ‘change the team completely’ for Tuesday’s game against Feyenoord. So, who is he likely to select?
One would think that Claudio Bravo stands a pretty good chance of starting the game ahead of Ederson. Bravo’s penalty heroics against Wolves earlier this season have given him a more favourable position with City’s fans, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Chilean given another chance to finally prove his worth to the City faithful. Defensively, Danilo looks an almost certainty to start; in which position is a more difficult thing to predict. Tosin Adarabioyo and Eliaquim Mangala will both be hoping for some minutes in the centre of defence, but Nicolas Otamendi will be reasonably fresh following his suspension against Leiciester, so I expect to see the Argentinian in the side. Fabian Delph is the only viable left-sided option, so I’m not sure if he’ll be afforded a rest unfortunately. Yaya Touré and Ilkay Gündoğan both look set to start the game, but the bigger question is whether or not English prodigy Phil Foden will be thrown straight in the fold alongside the more experienced midfielders. Bernardo Silva will almost certainly play a large part in the game on one side of the front three; however, again the bigger selection headache for Pep will be whether or not Brahim Diaz is given a chance to show his worth from the off. Sergio Agüero played no part against Leicester, so you’d think that his chances of starting the game are reasonably high.
John Stones’ Absence Doesn’t Have to be a Disaster
After a sensational start to the campaign, John Stones’ luck ran out on Saturday, pulling up with a hamstring injury in the first half. Pep said after the game that City’s cultured centre-half would be out for between 4-6 weeks, which creates some dilemmas in the heart of a very sturdy defensive setup. The feeling among many City fans seems to be that of devastation, and in some cases, panic. I don’t necessarily think that this needs to be the case though. As one defender was taken out of the fold on Saturday, another stepped back in. Vincent Kompany returned to the side after roughly three months out, and despite a shaky start, grew into the game and completed 90 minutes. Obviously, Kompany’s fitness is beyond questionable, and if the skipper were to get injured again, the alarm bells might well start to ring. For now, though, a defensive partnership of Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi is hardly one to feel panicked by, especially when you consider the latter’s improvement in consistency this campaign. City’s game plan centres primarily around keeping and moving the ball, and neither Kompany or Otamendi struggle particularly on that front. That being said, a Kompany injury would hardly be a shock, and if that were to happen, panic would be the least you’d expect from the City fans.
Perhaps Winning Doesn’t Matter
It seems pretty unspeakable to say after 16 straight wins, but perhaps winning isn’t all that important tomorrow. Usually, whenever I’m walking up to the Etihad on any given matchday, I’m going over all of the unlimited possibilities in my mind. Will City win comfortably? Will we sneak a close one? Will we drop points? Tomorrow, I’ll have a different kind of approach to the game. I’ll be excited to see which of the fringe players or youngsters get a chance to impress Pep and the fans. It’s impossible to not be excited by the rising star that is Phil Foden, and if you asked me now if I’d rather see a near guaranteed win with a full strong team or see the brightest spark in our academy given an hour in the first-team, I’d almost certainly go with the latter. Obviously, there are still things to play for in this group, and that shouldn’t be underestimated. Whilst City have qualified, top spot is not guaranteed by a long shot. A draw in tomorrow’s game and a loss for Shakhtar in Naples will guarantee City the top spot that they so desire. However, you’d back City to get a result against Feyenoord at home, regardless of the team that Pep selects. For me, I’d sacrifice a full strong XI to see what the youngsters can do – it’s sink or swim, and now is as good a time as any to test them out.
The Dutch champions are enjoying a pretty dismal defence of their crown this season. In addition to a very unsuccessful campaign in Europe, the Rotterdam-based side sit in 7th place in the Eredivisie, a whopping 14 points behind league leaders PSV. City enjoyed a 4-0 win in the Netherlands in September, and will be hoping to claim a double scalp tomorrow against somewhat frail, but proud opposition.
I think that as per Pep’s comments, City will go with a very experimental team tomorrow. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I think we’ll win the game. 2-0 City. Agüero and Bernardo Silva to score, with Foden impressing all before him.