Manchester City’s final home game of their record-breaking 2017/18 campaign is against the team they started the season against – Chris Hughton’s Brighton and Hove Albion. Following a disappointing bore draw on Sunday, Guardiola’s men will look to bounce back, with their eyes firmly still set on the points record, not to mention the possible 100 point mark. Brighton’s last outing was a deserved 1-0 victory over Mourinho’s Manchester United – since the turn of the year, Brighton have been excellent against the top six sides, getting points from both North London sides, so it certainly won’t be easy.
The game, regardless of the result, will probably be remembered for other reasons – the legend Yaya Touré will end his Etihad career on Wednesday night. I’m sure there will be songs sung and tributes raised for arguably the most important player of City’s recent history.
Here’s how I predict City will lineup for their final home game of the season…
Following Sunday, there are no fresh injury concerns for City, with John Stones getting his first minutes for a while, at the back.
Sergio Aguero remains out, although it has been reported that he will easily make Argentina’s World Cup squad, which is set to be announced by Jorge Sampaoli in the coming weeks.
Journalist Jose Alvarez has reported that City’s midfield maestro David Silva is in Valencia to spend time with his family for a few days – although not wholly clear, I have presumed this means he will not play any part on Wednesday night.
Pep has put sentiment to one side in these remaining dead-rubber fixtures, often prioritising the morale of the first team players, rather than rotating and giving the fringe players a chance. I fully expect this to continue on Wednesday, with Ederson getting the nod over Claudio Bravo, who will most likely finish the season with just one substitute appearance in the Premier League.
In front of him, I expect the Yorkshire double-act of Kyle Walker and John Stones to make up the right side of the back four. The duo have shown themselves as jokers of the bunch of late, with a number of videos surfacing of the two. As for the left of the defence, this is an area I expect rotation. I think this will be the birth of the John Stones and Aymeric Laporte partnership. Being born just one day apart, this combination is one that many City fans see as the future of the back line, and a end-of-season game is a perfect opportunity to bed that in. On the left, I am going to hazard a guess that Pep will offer a first start since September for Benjamin Mendy. The Frenchman has registered two substitute appearances since his return, looking very sharp in the latter on Sunday, almost breaking the deadlock with a venomous strike from distance.
In midfield, there is one certainty – Yaya Touré. The role he plays, however, is not so certain. This is what I would love to see – Fernandinho operating in his usual #6 role, doing the running, with Touré sitting in front alongside Kevin De Bruyne. This may not be the case, but it would roll back the years, seeing Yaya in front of the holding player, spraying passes left and right, with the opportunity to have a shot at goal if the chance comes.
As for the front free, Gabriel Jesus is a near certainty to start, given Aguero’s injury problems. The Brazilian struggled against Huddersfield’s deep block at the weekend, but given Brighton are much more of a football playing side, I think Gabriel will enjoy a positive evening. Either side of Jesus, I think we will see slight rotation, with Bernardo Silva replacing Sané, and Raheem Sterling moving over to the left. This is the front three we saw against Swansea the other week, and Raheem Sterling was given a free role, with a license to float across the forward line. This, coupled with the overlapping runs of Mendy, could work a treat.