Manchester City welcome FC Basel to England as the Blues seek to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League following their 4-0 stomping of the Swiss side three weeks ago. City have been able to maintain their thunderous form, winning the Carabao Cup as well as easily disposing of Chelsea on Sunday.
City have a massive advantage going into the second leg as the goals of Bernardo Silva, Sergio Aguero, and Ilkay Gundogan (x2) have put them in the driver’s seat. Considering the comfortable position City find themselves in, Guardiola can be expected to rotate. Here’s my predicted team…
Pep is known for respecting all competitions and opponents, particularly in the Champions League. This makes a start for Ederson likely with the Brazilian shot-stopper having been in consistently great form all season.
In the back four, I expect Danilo to start at right-back to provide Kyle Walker with a well-earned rest. Fabian Delph will return from his domestic suspension against Stoke and Guardiola might be eager to bring his makeshift left-back straight back into the starting lineup then, which would point towards a start for 20 year-old prodigy Oleks Zinchenko on Tuesday. John Stones has only made the bench recently and might return to the lineup after dropping down the pecking order. The match against Basel could also provide Nicolas Otamendi with a rest, which makes a potential pairing of Stones with Aymeric Laporte possible as Vincent Kompany should be rested for the upcoming match against Stoke.
In midfield, City fans will be hopeful to see local lad Phil Foden starting. It would be Foden’s second start in the Champions League following his appearance in the group stage against Shakhtar Donetsk. Yaya Touré might make a rare appearance as Pep will be eager to minimalise the risk of key players getting injured. This leaves one midfield role available and I could see Ilkay Gundogan retaining his spot. Alternatively, Fabian Delph could start as a holding midfielder, but having missed training on Monday that is unlikely.
Expect Gabriel Jesus to lead the line up front as the Brazilian will require game time to get back into the groove following his absence through injury. This also gives stand-out performer Sergio Aguero a well-deserved rest as the Argentinian forward has played consistently over the past two months. Raheem Sterling has returned to training but is touch-and-go to make the team against Basel. EDS followers will also hope for a start of Brahim Diaz. As of now, however, Pep has been careful about using the young Spaniard from the start and might stick with Leroy Sané and Bernardo Silva on the wings.
Pep is likely to field a team that is going to be motivated to win but for which safe progress to the quarter-finals as well as the avoiding of injuries will be the primary concern. We could see some young blood on the bench, such as promising forward Lukas Nmecha.