Manchester City travel to Wolverhampton this weekend, looking to maintain their flawless start to the campaign. With Pep Guardiola opting to rest all of his attacking wingers against Huddersfield last week, it gives new impetus to start them this week against innately attacking opposition…
The first name on the team sheet, as always in the Premier League for City, is of course Ederson. If there was ever a smidgeon of doubt that Pep would make a radical change between the sticks, it’s been all but eliminated by the long-term injury to Claudio Bravo.
Now, after playing a back three last week against Huddersfield to utilise the attacking prowess of Mendy and the flexibility of Stones, I think a back four would suit us much better against an opponent expected to be far more expansive and open than Huddersfield in Wolves. Kyle Walker should make his return after being given a week’s rest to resume normal service at right back. And City’s standout performer so far, Benjamin Mendy, should keep his place at left back and be given license to maraud forward as he has done so well this season. Plugging the defensive holes Mendy could leave and starting at centre back is Aymeric Laporte, partnered by John Stones. The young pairing has been quintessential in the three games played this season and have looked more than capable of dealing with the likes of Jimenez and Jota for Wolves.
The absence of Kevin De Bruyne leaves the midfield an area in which a handful of players can play, however this week I don’t think we’ll see too much change. Playing the 6 just in front of the backline should be Mr Reliable, Fernandinho. Although I’m only assuming he’s fit enough to start, with Pep saying in the pre-match conference that he “recovered slowly” from last weekend’s game, he may be inclined to start someone else there. In front of him I’d certainly expect to see David Silva after yet another outstanding performance a week ago in which he got himself a goal and was given thirty minutes rest, he should be fresh enough to contribute from the start. Joining El Mago will be one of two players, Bernardo or Gundogan, and I’m going to give the nod to Ilkay Gundogan. Pep seems to trust Gundogan more than the majority of City fans do, and I think at an away ground like Molineux, Guardiola will value his tenacity and endeavour over Bernardo’s aptitude to create, perhaps to the disdain of a few Blues.
I’d expect changes to be made offensively on Saturday due to Wolves tendency to play a back three in what is very much a high-risk high reward system for them. This combined with the fact that they were given almost a full rest last Sunday against Huddersfield means that it’s almost a no brainer to start with two of the three potent City wide men. Due to the space they should get I fancy Pep to choose the fastest ones. On the left I expect to see Leroy Sané start, and it’s about time as well. Despite not starting a game this season, he was City’s scariest attacker last season and uniting him with Mendy on the left flank could lead to us scoring double figures at some point. On the right I think Raheem Sterling will revert back to his natural position under Pep, although scoring and causing havoc from the left on the opening day, his ability to time his runs in behind to perfection should prove to be a vital asset tomorrow coming from the right-hand side. Starting upfront has to be the seemingly undroppable Sergio Aguero, three games played, five goals scored, a hattrick in his last outing, Sergio looks the sharpest he’s ever been. After complaining about having had pain in his knee for five years in the Amazon documentary, Dr Cugat seems to have worked his magic and got him running like a teenager again which is a scary prospect to any Premier League defence. Expect to see him get a couple of goals tomorrow.
Making it on the subs bench will be, much to his surprise, Aro Muric. The young goalkeeper was out on loan at NAC Breda but was hastily recalled this week to serve as City’s backup goalie after the injury to Claudio Bravo. He’ll be looking to impress. Covering in defence should be Fabian Delph and Vincent Kompany – reverting to a back four means he misses out. Then reinforcing the wealth of attacking talent will be Bernardo Silva, who has certainly done enough to warrant a start and he may well get it. Phil Foden should be there as Pep looks to give him more game time and experience. New signing Riyad Mahrez will hope to give City a different dimension coming in from the right if called upon. And completing the bench will be Gabriel Jesus who linked up so well with Aguero last week, although the systematic change means he’ll have to come on and get his customary goal late in the game.