It’s back to club football at last following another international break, with Manchester City taking on West Ham at the London Stadium on Saturday. That brings to an end a run of four home games on the trot that Pep Guardiola’s men took full advantage of, winning them all and scoring an incredible SEVENTEEN (17) goals in the process.
Tomorrow, it’s back on the road for the Premier League champions, with City having not lost an away game since April when Liverpool bested them in that fateful Champions League tie.
So taking into account the international break, which saw some fitness worries, how will Pep line his troops up in London, especially with a trip to Lyon coming up on Tuesday?
It’s bad news (again) on the Mendy front with Pep Guardiola ruling him out for up to three months at his Friday press conference. Many will now begin to question the likeable Frenchman’s longevity at City, and with Alex Sandro apparently on the market, Pep may have some big decisions to make soon.
Also absent will be Bernardo Silva with an injury picked up playing for Portugal. It’s not a bad one but he’s definitely out of the trip to West Ham and likely to miss the Lyon game during the week.
In better news, Ilkay Gundogan is fit to play 90 minutes if required, but as we all know, Kevin De Bruyne and Claudio Bravo are sidelined with lengthy injuries.
Ederson started one of Brazil’s two games during the break and will be between the sticks for his club as he is every week in the league.
As always, it’s not so easy at the back, especially with fitness levels likely to vary following the internationals. Danilo started both of Brazil’s game – a boost for him – but we can only see Kyle Walker starting at right-back. No Mendy means Guardiola has two realistic choices for the left-back position and we’ll go with Fabian Delph to get the nod ahead of Zinchenko.
Vincent Kompany was among those criticised in Belgium’s defensive horror show against Switzerland, which saw them blow a 0-2 lead and lose 5-2. We love him anyway, but it’s hard to see him starting. Right now, it’s tough to see anyone but the incredible Aymeric Laporte and John Stones partnership beginning games, but the schedule is getting busy, so we can expect to see Kompany and Otamendi soon. Otamendi was injured prior to the internationals but we assume he’s good to go now.
In midfield, who else but Fernandinho? These international breaks do wonders for veterans either retired or dropped from their national teams, including the excellent Brazilian. He’ll almost certainly be joined by the well-rested David Silva. With Bernardo and KDB injured, Guardiola has a unique opportunity to give Phil Foden a start, but we can only go on his track record of favouring the established names in league matches, and so Ilkay Gundogan is our predicted third man in the midfield.
Guardiola is spoilt for choice in attack and with Lyon coming up, there’s bound to be some rotation over the two games. At weekend, we’ll go for Leroy Sané, who had a fantastic couple of games with Germany, to start on the left, and Riyad Mahrez – who starred himself for Algeria – on the right. That’ll rest Raz for Lyon, but it’s a flip of the coin really in terms of who’ll play the two games.
Up-front, Sergio Aguero is also fresh as a daisy after again being excluded by Argentina. Kun spoke of how fit he feels after his summer knee surgery and there appear to be no lasting effects from a hamstring problem he had leaving the Manchester derby.
On the bench we expect to see Aro Muric, Danilo, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Nicolas Otamendi, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus. Even with injuries, what a bench – what a squad.