Manchester City travel to Southampton on Sunday looking to become the Premier League’s first ever centurions. But in the last game of this incredible season, who will Pep pick to take on the Saints?
Here’s my predicted team for this south coast clash…
For the first time all season, I’m not sure who will start in goal. Ederson, being our best ‘keeper, seems the obvious choice after a sensational debut campaign in England. But a surprise selection against Brighton threw me off and now I don’t know what to expect. It’s a bit of a gamble, but I think Pep will start with Claudio Bravo between the sticks as a way of rewarding him for being patient this season.
The back four, then. I’m hoping we’ll get to see more of Danilo and Aymeric Laporte after their impressive performances against Brighton, while Nicolas Otamendi will be keen to get back into the side after a rest. Benjamin Mendy still hasn’t made a start for City in this calendar year and, despite some encouraging substitute performances in recent weeks, I don’t know if this is the ideal game to change that. So I’m going with Fabian Delph at left-back, a spot he’s more than earned in a season that could have been oh so different had he not been so willing to step up.
The midfield trio will probably be the same one that’s driven this City team through dozens of matches this campaign. Fernandinho, who scored against Brighton, will return as one of Pep’s most valued players. It could be his last ever game for us as an undisputed starter, with rumours of moves for Jorginho and Fred circulating. In front of the Brazilian will be Kevin De Bruyne and, assuming he’s back from Spain, David Silva, who’ll enjoy this final chance to remind the country how good they’ve been this year.
Now for the attack. Raheem Sterling will surely make the XI after being rested in midweek, while Leroy Sané seems to be undroppable in recent times. That leaves only the striker spot available, and surely it will be Gabriel Jesus who fills it. Jesus hasn’t had the incredible season he might’ve if not for injury, but his numbers are still excellent and he’ll want to sign off with a goal here.
On the bench, then, will probably be Ederson and Bernardo Silva, two young first-teamers who I can’t wait to watch next season. I expect both to take a massive leap forward under Pep’s management. They’ll be joined by Ilkay Gundogan and John Stones, who have both had to be patient this campaign despite putting in an impressive and important shift. The returning Benjamin Mendy is also a near-certainty to be in the squad, but I expect Kyle Walker and one of the centre-backs (in this case Vincent Kompany) to be surprise omissions from the team. This is to make room for Phil Foden and Brahim Díaz, both of whom need one more appearance in order to earn a Premier League medal. I’m hoping Pep can find the time to bring them both on, because they’re the future of this club. I have a feeling they’ll need to get used to winning silverware.