Manchester City continue their quest for Pep Guardiola’s first trophy in England as they welcome Bristol City to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday for the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final. The Robins will be anything but cannon fodder however, having already sent Watford, Stoke, Crystal Palace, and Manchester United out of the cup in their impressive run.
Here’s my predicted team for the clash…
Guardiola has criticised the Carabao Cup in the past for adding even more fixtures to the already busy schedule of English top sides. However, with City being 15 points clear at the top of the table and an entry into his first English cup final just a step away, I expect a strong lineup as Pep will be eager for a good result that would enable him to rest key players in the second leg.
Following the win against Burnley, Claudio Bravo will retain his spot in goal and the City faithful will be hoping the Chilean shot-stopper can replicate his previous cup heroics against Wolves and Leicester.
Danilo could start at left-back as the game with in-form Liverpool looms on the horizon, and Guardiola is likely to rely on current first-choice left-back Fabian Delph for that. Kyle Walker comes back into the team at right-back after being rested against Burnley. Eliaquim Mangala could return to the starting eleven to provide Nico Otamendi with a well-earned rest as the Argentine has played consistently since the injury to John Stones, who could partner Mangala at centre-half. Stones did not look as assured against Burnley as he did before his injury and Pep might want him to provide with more game time to get him back to his usual best.
Kevin De Bruyne only featured as a substitute against Burnley, making him a likely starter against Bristol. Much depends on the situation of David Silva who, if he features, would start alongside Gundogan to give Fernandinho a rest. The more likely scenario, especially in regards to the upcoming game against Liverpool, is Yaya Touré returning to the team in the place of Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan retaining his spot following his good performance against Burnley on Saturday.
It is difficult to look beyond Sergio Aguero starting at the minute due to the sheer lack of alternatives. Bernardo Silva could also start after only coming off the bench against Burnley. I’ll go for Leroy Sané as the remaining forward.
This would give City a strong but rotated side, as Pep will be looking for a big win to take the pressure off in the second leg. Guardiola has also used the Carabao Cup in the past to give minutes to academy players so we might see some cameo performances of the likes of Brahim Diaz, Lukas Nmecha or Tosin Adarabioyo.