Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City take on Arsenal at Wembley Stadium in search of their first piece of silverware under the Catalan coach in the Carabao Cup Final.
After beating Bristol City over two legs in the semi-finals, the Blues will face Wenger’s Gunners, who edged past Chelsea in the last round to be here. In Guardiola’s first domestic final in England, he will no doubt see a chance to banish the memories of Monday’s humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of Wigan Athletic – not to mention the controversial loss the last time these two sides met at Wembley last April.
Here’s my predicted City team for what might just be the biggest game of our season so far…
In an injury-plagued season, it makes a pleasant change for City to have a squad that is finally reaching full fitness. Gabriel Jesus is still on his way back from injury, but is expected to be available as things stand. Rightly or wrongly, Fabian Delph is unavailable after being sent off in the last match. And now for the big news: Raheem Sterling hasn’t trained all week and won’t start tomorrow, according to reliable journalist Jose Alvarez. He’ll be a huge miss, but Arsenal are without Alexandre Lacazette and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, which could prove a valuable leveller.
In one of the most controversial selection decisions of the season, Pep has confirmed that Claudio Bravo will start in goal against Arsenal. While almost everyone can agree that Ederson is the superior goalkeeper, the logic of Bravo playing is fairly self-explanatory – after playing and playing well in every previous round of the competition, the Chilean has surely earned his place.
In defence I would expect Kyle Walker and Nicolas Otamendi to line up against Arsenal’s threatening forwards, but the rest of the backline is somewhat harder to guess. If it were up to me Aymeric Laporte would get a chance to impress, with Kompany’s legs still unreliable and Stones in dodgy form. To his left, it’s a close call between Oleks Zinchenko, a player I really like the look of, and Danilo. To be on the safe side, I expect Pep to plump for the experience of the latter over the attacking prowess of the former.
This is where the team selection gets considerably easier. You could probably argue that Fernandinho, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been the best midfield trio in the world this season – they will all play if fit and, when they’re at their best, I give our opponents little chance whoever they may be.
Ahead of them, Sergio Aguero is an absolute shoe-in. You just can’t leave out a man with over thirty goals in all competitions this season, a feat that only Harry Kane can match amongst Premier League players at the time of writing. Aguero is capable of a few frustrating performances, like against Wigan, but I have faith that he’ll come up with the goods this time. Barring any major surprises, he’ll be flanked by Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sané, two players who’ve been coming up big with the assists this season and will need to be at their best tomorrow.
As for the bench, it isn’t too difficult to make a guess: Ederson, Oleksandr Zinchenko, John Stones, Vincent Kompany, Ilkay Gundogan, Yaya Touré and the returning Gabriel Jesus will make up the substitutes for Pep Guardiola’s side, with Phil Foden and Brahim Díaz perhaps outsiders for a place in the squad.
Can we earn our first trophy in two years with another Wembley victory? I certainly hope so. See you in London.