The feeling of an archaic 3pm Saturday kick off is getting all too familiar for Manchester City. This time round the Seagulls pay the Etihad a visit in a game that cannot prove to be a banana skin for the Blues; with Chelsea hosting Liverpool shortly after the City game, Pep Guardiola will be hungry to capitalize. Here’s the team I think he’ll pick to do just that…
In goal will be Ederson, to be quite honest with you I’m sick of trying to come up with new spins to put on why he’ll be selected. Alas, it’s no surprise he’ll be the man between the sticks on Saturday, so there you go.
The slightly overdue absence of Benjamin Mendy is becoming a tad concerning; it leaves Pep with no choice but to select a back four this weekend. Taking his left back spot will be Fabian Delph, he shouldn’t have too difficult of an afternoon but he can’t afford to let the momentary lapses of concentration occur again like they did against Lyon. At right back I’d be astounded if it wasn’t Kyle Walker, the full rest he got midweek indicates that his position is almost a given. The two centre halves should be Aymeric Laporte – who got a full rest this week after featuring in basically every game this season – and John Stones, who’s Busquets-esque performance against Oxford provided evidence to suggest his level of adeptness with the ball at his feet makes him a versatile asset to the squad; normal service should resume tomorrow though with him returning to partner up with Aymeric.
The base of the midfield trio should consist of the rested Fernandinho, who showed signs of improvement against Cardiff. Despite his age, he’s one of the players we cannot afford to let slip into decline this season; keeping him match fit is essential, but keeping him match sharp is just as equally vital. The other two midfielders will be the same two who got on the scoresheet against Cardiff; Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva’s stellar performances put forward a strong argument to play them both this weekend ahead of our best current fit player; David Silva. It remains to be seen whether Gundogan can put together a consistent string of performances in the same ilk as the Cardiff one, but given the fact that crucial games are fast approaching, it’s only fair he’s given the chance to do that against Brighton as David will almost certainly be playing at Hoffenheim and Liverpool.
Granting Riyad Mahrez now has three goals in two games, the prospect of a well-rested Leroy Sané with a fresh appetite is a scarier prospect for me. The early acrimony between himself and Pep seemed to evaporate once his goal against Fulham went in – I expect the continuity of his quality performances to be further rewarded on Saturday with another start. One winger who’s basically forcing his name onto the team sheet is Raheem Sterling, these contract negotiations have seemed to almost fuel his desire to play for City more intensely; his decision making has improved drastically, his technique is being refined by the day, in short, he’s matured as a footballer. He’s rumoured to be wanting the same amount of money as the big hitters like De Bruyne and Aguero, and these last two months he’s been knocking down the door required to warrant that pay. Rather than cause a feud at the club and disrupt the harmony, he’s took his game on the pitch to a new level; the perfect way to handle things. Speaking of big hitters, one should be on the pitch tomorrow – Sergio Aguero has four goals to his name this season – and one thing for sure, he’ll be looking to make what seems a comfortable game on paper a happy hunting ground for himself.
On the bench should be Aro Muric, who bar one moment of madness against Oxford, had a very impressive debut. Covering all defensive duties will be Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany. The four players concluding the bench should give City a plethora of attacking outlets should a change need to be made – David Silva and Phil Foden will be in equal contention to get minutes on the pitch – something I never thought I’d say, and the two out and out attackers on the bench polarised by form will be Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus; both of whom scored midweek which will hopefully be carried into tomorrow’s game.