Manchester City started 2018 on a high, with a pleasing performance leading to a relatively easy three points against Watford on Tuesday. The focus now turns to the cups with back-to-back games in domestic competitions. First up is Burnley in the FA Cup, a competition that Pep will be looking to better last season’s semi-final loss. The word ‘quadruple’ is a swear word as far as Guardiola is concerned, and he is very quick to dismiss any treble or quadruple talk, however with City fifteen clear in the league, why not put a bit more extra focus on the cups? Anyway, here’s my predicted team for City’s third round clash tomorrow afternoon…
Following much speculation and concern, fan-favourite David Silva released a statement to update the football world on his personal situation, that his son has been prematurely born and is requiring around-the-clock medical attention. David is back in Valencia, according to reports, and will not play tomorrow – all the best to the Silva family at this tough time. (UPDATE: We’ve since learned Silva returned to Manchester, which isn’t reflected in this predicted XI)
Elsewhere, Kyle Walker suffered a minor pull at the end of the game against Watford, and may struggle to make the team tomorrow, although Pep will judge after today’s training session.
Benjamin Mendy, Vincent Kompany and Phil Foden remain out.
Guardiola didn’t spend money on the likes of Bernardo Silva and Danilo in the summer for them to sit on the bench all season. He bought them to have a solid second team that is strong enough to overcome most opponents. There will be rotation, it just depends which game out of this and Bristol City Guardiola prioritizes the highest.
In his press conference, Pep Guardiola refused to comment on who will start in goal tomorrow, however I suspect Claudio Bravo will start, as he will in all the cups this season. Cup goalkeepers has been a hot topic in recent years, with 99% of the fan-base calling for Willy Caballero’s head should he start in the Capital One Cup final win v Liverpool. The ultimate hero of that day: Willy Caballero. Villain Claudio Bravo is the main man to thank for City being in the Carabao Cup semi-final, despite being highly criticized by all corners of the football world. Funny old game football.
In front of him, Danilo will likely start at right back. Kyle Walker may be fit, however at this stage of the season it is not worth risking him unless the alternatives are scarce, and Danilo has Champions League medals galore in his trophy cabinet, so he isn’t too shabby. On the other side, Fabian Delph will feature after his return from a small injury.
In the middle of defence, I expect John Stones to get his second consecutive start in a row following his return from a hamstring problem. Alongside him, we could see rotation, however I think Pep will see this game as a potential banana skin so will start his best pair, in John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi. The Argentine is a Premier League Player of the Month nominee, and will be keen to continue this bane of form.
Providing the shield is another contentious position, however I think Fernandinho will remain in the starting eleven. He will be covering for Ilkay Gundogan who will return to the eleven in David Silva’s absence. When called upon, the German hasn’t looked out of place in the middle. If I learned one thing from the Watford game, it is that Kevin De Bruyne is superhuman and missing a game for rest isn’t his cup of tea. For that reason, I imagine the Belgian will start tomorrow and look to build on his man of the match performance midweek.
The front three could see slight rotation, with Bernardo Silva coming into the side. Like Gundogan, Bernardo has been very good since he has had a run in the side, and will be hoping to continue in this form, against a team that he played a key part in beating in the league fixture earlier in the season. In the middle it is almost certain that Sergio Agüero will continue. It was another frustrating evening for Kun on Tuesday, however he got himself on the score-sheet, which he often manages to do. On the left, Leroy Sané is likely to start. After a poor run of form, Leroy stepped it up on Tuesday and put in an easy on the eye performance, supplying Sterling for his goal and completing a few successful dribbles.
On the bench, I expect to see Ederson, Eliaquim Mangala, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Yaya Touré and Raheem Sterling. City will be forced into giving some of the youth a seat on the bench, so I expect to see Brahim Diaz and Lukas Nmecha. It is a shame that Phil Foden is nursing an injury, as he would’ve certainly picked up some minutes in these cup games.