Manchester City are well positioned to advance to the Champions League Round of 16 as Group F winners, but a defeat to Lyon in France on Tuesday would complicate matters.
Lyon, who pulled off a shock win over City at the Etihad Stadium earlier in the competition, would go level on points with Pep Guardiola’s men but top of the group on the head to head rule.
With that in mind, this is no dead rubber, even though City are pretty much certain to advance to the next round one way or another, because the priority will be to top the group.
So, how strong will Guardiola go at the Groupama Stadium tomorrow night? His rotation options have been severely hampered by sudden injuries. It’s time again to try and predict the team after we got 9 out of 11 right at the weekend.
Things are starting to look a little bleak on the injury front and this is where having a deep squad benefits City. After missing the weekend game, Bernardo Silva didn’t train on Monday and is out, as are Gabriel Jesus and the oft-injured Ilkay Gundogan.
Add those three to the longer term absences of Kevin De Bruyne, Benjamin Mendy and Claudio Bravo, and the injury list has grown suddenly. We can only hope Bernardo, Ilkay and Jesus have minor issues and will be back soon.
Once again it’ll be Ederson in goal. If the final game against Hoffenheim becomes a dead rubber – which it will be if City beat Lyon tomorrow and cement first place – then maybe Aro Muric can experience Champions League football next time.
Danilo has travelled so Pep has a good secondary right-back option, but Kyle Walker hardly misses any important games and we expect him to start. Left-back is a slightly difficult choice as it depends on if the manager is considering Delph for a midfield role. We’re going to go with Fabian Delph at left-back ahead of Zinchenko as we’ll benefit from some security after Lyon’s impressive attacking show at the Etihad.
The centre-back positions also require some thought, as no matter how good the Stones/Laporte partnership is, Guardiola has two other options. Nico Otamendi was good on his return at weekend, but we’d be quite surprised if he plays two in a row. There’s a case for Vinny to come in, but we’re playing it safe and going for Aymeric Laporte and John Stones to be named in the XI – they have started City’s last three European games.
In midfield, there is one big argument unless Pep does something unexpected with the formation: Fabian Delph or Phil Foden? Since we’ve gone with Delph at left-back, you can guess our prediction. Yes, we’re going for Phil Foden to start a big European game under lights. Fernandinho will start, so playing Delph with him would seem to reduce City’s creativity some. The third man will be David Silva, who is enjoying some of the best form of his career and suddenly can’t stop scoring.
The wing positions are always tricky to predict, because one top quality player is left out of each game. We’re going for the two who tore apart West Ham at the weekend, Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling, to start again. If that is the case, expect one to be rested at the weekend and Riyad Mahrez to play.
If for some reason Pep decides to drop Sergio Aguero – and we don’t think he will, hence our selection – then there is a chance of Mahrez, Sané and Sterling all starting with Raz as the false nine.
On the bench will be Aro Muric, Danilo, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi, Brahim Diaz and Riyad Mahrez.