Manchester City host Southampton on Sunday hoping to maintain their spot at the summit of the Premier League, where they currently lead Liverpool on goal difference.
Pep Guardiola’s men have been in magnificent form and are unbeaten in nine, with recent Premier League wins over Burnley and Tottenham, plus a draw at bogey ground Anfield. Just as impressive are the six clean sheets in a row in the league, which Ederson will be hoping becomes seven at the weekend.
City have been rocked by news that Kevin De Bruyne will be out for an expected 5 to 6 weeks, which Dr Cugat will hope to turn into 3 to 4 weeks. Even without him this season, City have gotten good results, but the Blues are a better side with KDB than without him.
In his Friday press conference, Pep Guardiola said Ilkay Gundogan is still not at 100% despite training, while Nicolas Otamendi has a small tendon problem that Pep believes will keep him out, but isn’t totally sure.
Ederson will return in net after young Aro Muric was given a run-out in the Carabao Cup win over Fulham. As mentioned, the Brazil international can make it seven clean sheets on the bounce which would put him in good stead for a first Golden Glove award.
In defence, expect Kyle Walker to return to the side after he was an unused sub during the week, although Danilo’s performance against Fulham could mean added competition at right-back for Walker soon. Benjamin Mendy should return at left-back despite a horror show against Tottenham at Wembley, but Pep might be tempted to give Fabian Delph or Oleksandr Zinchenko a run-out.
In the centre of defence, it looks like it’ll be the excellent Aymeric Laporte and John Stones partnership, with Otamendi unlikely to be risked and Vincent Kompany playing 90 minutes on Thursday night. Never have City had such a talented group of central defenders to call upon, and Guardiola is making good use of them.
After a much-needed rest, Fernandinho will resume his duties in the holding midfield role and will be joined by David Silva and Bernardo Silva, neither of whom played a minute against Fulham. Phil Foden performed well against The Cottagers but Guardiola is still reluctant to give him Premier League starts, particularly with things so close at the top.
Another who was unused against Fulham was Raheem Sterling, who has verbally agreed a new long-term deal at the Etihad and is sure to return on the right-hand side. Will he be joined by Mahrez, Sané or even midweek hero Brahim Diaz? Sané played 90 minutes against Fulham and although logic may dictate a return for Mahrez, we have a feeling Leroy Sané will get another start against Southampton.
Up-front we can probably expect Sergio Aguero to lead the line. Gabriel Jesus was very good in the Carabao Cup win, but just can’t seem to find the goal, with the woodwork denying him on Thursday.
On the bench will be Aro Muric, Danilo, Fabian Delph, Vincent Kompany, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus. Having so many players fit is almost a problem for City, as it could mean two-goal Brahim Diaz not even making the bench for example, but that’s how things work at a club like City. If Otamendi and Gundogan are fit enough to play some part, that’ll complicate the selection process even more for our Catalan mastermind.