We’re in the midst of the famously busy festive period of English football and Manchester City are going nicely, with five wins in December so far and just the one defeat to Chelsea serving as a blemish on their record.
The schedule is not getting any more relaxed, with Crystal Palace up next at the Etihad Stadium before another trip to Leicester on Boxing Day, an away day in Southampton at the end of December, then the big one against Liverpool to kick off 2018.
First up is Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace who picked up a much-needed win over Leicester last weekend and will be hoping to spring an Etihad upset against a team with a formidable record on home soil.
So how will Guardiola select his team with two away games to follow after it? Here’s our attempt at predicting the Man City XI to play Crystal Palace.
Injuries are starting to clear up now with De Bruyne and Aguero back, and as Pep revealed today, David Silva back in training. Guardiola isn’t sure if El Mago will play a part in the Christmas schedule, but his return isn’t far off.
Vincent Kompany is “much better” but not ready for tomorrow’s game. There was no comment on Danilo but photographs of him in full training suggest he’s good to go.
Benjamin Mendy should return around February while Claudio Bravo’s injury will keep him out for most, if not the entire season.
After Aro Muric’s penalty heroics on Tuesday night, Ederson will take his place as City’s number one again.
There’s a heavy reliance on Kyle Walker this season, but Danilo looks to be back and this is the perfect opportunity to rest Walker, who looks below his best, ahead of two away games. At left-back, we foresee the return of Fabian Delph after Aleks Zinchenko played the midweek game.
In the centre of defence, John Stones will return to his natural position and be partnered by Aymeric Laporte, who will be well rested.
Having not even been named on the bench against Leicester, Fernandinho is likely to start, although Guardiola may be tempted to rest him again if he thinks he can get away with it. Partnering the Brazilian will be Kevin De Bruyne and the returning Bernardo Silva. Looking at the alternatives again, there is the possibility of KDB being benched and Gundogan starting, but Pep will want his Belgian maestro to regain full sharpness ASAP.
Leroy Sané was also rested in the Carabao Cup, while Raheem Sterling made a late entry off the bench, so we expect those two to start ahead of Riyad Mahrez.
And up front, it’ll be Sergio Aguero who looked rusty against the Foxes and needs game time to regain his form. Gabriel Jesus has been playing well and with his form improving, it should allow Guardiola to more freely rotate him and Kun in the weeks ahead.
That leaves the bench with our guess being: Aro Muric, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Nicolas Otamendi, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus.