Manchester City welcome bitter enemies Manchester United to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday knowing that a win would secure Pep’s team a third title win in seven seasons with an unprecedented six league games to spare – now how’s that for a Champions League hangover cure?
Beating Mourinho’s men (probably) won’t be easy, however, as the Portuguese international will be determined to do whatever he can to spare his employers – and himself – the humiliation of watching their local rivals celebrate another major trophy. However, City have good reason to be confident, having failed to win just four league games so far in this campaign.
Sergio Aguero is a doubt for the derby, while we still don’t know for sure how close to a return Benjamin Mendy is – despite Pep Guardiola confirming he’s been training regularly in Friday’s press conference. Other than that, the squad is nearing a clean bill of health after John Stones’ return from a concussion.
I’m going with Ederson in goal. I know, it would be a shock, but I just have a feeling.
I expect a strong back four – we’ll need one to deal with Lukaku and Sanchez – of Kyle Walker, Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi and Fabian Delph. Walker had a shocker on Wednesday night, leading to me handing him a 2/10 in my player ratings, but he’s still by far the best full-back we’ve got. I think Kompany and Otamendi are easily our two best defenders, while Delph could make a welcome return from injury after Danilo, Aymeric Laporte and Oleks Zinchenko have all had a crack at filling in for him.
The midfield three, if Pep plays it safe, should pick itself. Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva were not at their best at all on Wednesday night but still managed to be the three best players in blue. The trio ooze class and have done all season, and we’ll need them to play more like their usual selves if we want to be celebrating come Saturday night.
Up front, it could be a very complicated selection – or it could be a very simple one. Personally, Guardiola’s comments on Friday implied to me that Aguero won’t be fit to start against United, so I’d predict Gabriel Jesus to line up in his place. He’ll be flanked by Leroy Sané and one of the in-form Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling. I’m going to predict that the latter will start on the basis that he was rested against Liverpool and we’ll need his goal threat in the absence of Aguero.
On the bench, Claudio Bravo is the safest possible bet, while I’d imagine Danilo, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte will provide defensive cover. Meanwhile, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva could offer Pep some options to control the game later on, and it’ll be good to see Sergio Aguero back in the squad after a few weeks out injured.
On paper, a team like that should be able to see off United and finally secure the league title we’ve all been expecting since November. However, the idea has been floated that Pep will rest a few key players in an effort to keep them fit for the next leg of the Liverpool tie, despite the scoreline. If that doesn’t happen, I expect us all to have a very good Saturday evening.