A win over Shakhtar on Wednesday would almost certainly guarantee progress to the Champions League round of 16 for City. It could even allow Pep Guardiola to rest more of his big names in the last one or two group games depending on other results.
With the Manchester derby on the horizon, Guardiola must carefully consider how to construct his team against Shakhtar. The good thing is United play away at Juventus on the same night, which means more travel and hopefully a tougher game. And with the reds on shaky ground in their group, they might not be able to rest anyone.
A colleague went 11/11 on our team prediction for the weekend win over Southampton, but we are not so confident for the Shakhtar game. But let’s have a go!
The good news is that Nico Otamendi and Ilkay Gundogan are both back from injury, giving Guardiola more options to rotate. Only Kevin De Bruyne and Eliaquim Mangala are unavailable from the outfield squad, and not forgetting Claudio Bravo’s long term injury.
Ederson conceded a rare goal at the weekend — his first since Hoffenheim — and will hope for a shut-out against a Shakhtar team that has Taison and Marlos back in the squad giving them more threats compared to last time.
In front of Eddy, we’re going out on a limb and predicting Danilo to start, giving Walker a rest. Danilo was really good against Fulham and it would preserve Kyle for the derby. On the left, it’s a tough one but we’ll say Benjamin Mendy who needs to keep playing his way back to form.
At centre back we think the ever present Aymeric Laporte and John Stones will start again, but this position is unpredictable to select and Otamendi’s return gives Pep more options.
Guardiola now has a true alternative to Fernandinho in midfield even if his style is different — we’re tempted to say Ilkay Gundogan will start but will ‘bottle it’ and go with Fernandinho! Joining him, it’s hard to look past David Silva and Bernardo Silva — we’ve got two Silvas you know!
Now for the attack and Etihad Player of the Month, Riyad Mahrez, will return to the XI we’re thinking. That will mean Raz or Leroy sitting this one out and after two starts in a week, we’ll guess Sané on the bench with Raheem Sterling starting.
Sergio Aguero was great against Southampton and his fitness levels look as good as they have ever been right now, so our final selection choice is Kun to start ahead of Gabby Jesus.