Manchester City put in one of their best performances in quite some time on Thursday night to beat Liverpool and reignite the Premier League title race.
This weekend, attention turns to the historic FA Cup, the trophy that ended City’s long silverware drought in 2011 and ushered in a new era of success. Pep Guardiola would surely love to add what he described as England’s second biggest trophy to his impressive resumé.
After the midweek exertions, we can expect a host of changes, even though Pep said he would treat Sunday’s game against Championship strugglers Rotherham as a ‘final’. There is probably between a 0 and 0.5% chance of Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho starting, for example.
So how will Pep rotate and line his side up for the visit of Paul Warne’s side to the Etihad?
There are no fresh injury concerns that we know about, but it’s possible some players are feeling the effects of Thursday. Long-term absentees Benjamin Mendy and Claudio Bravo are the only players known to be properly injured. Danilo hobbled off at half-time against Liverpool but responded to treatment and was able to finish the match.
Fabian Delph will serve the last match of his three-game ban against Rotherham.
In keeping with the cup goalkeeper philosophy of this club, Aro Muric can expect to start in goal with Ederson having the day off. City’s progress in the Carabao Cup means young Muric now has two competitions to play in.
At the back, expect more changes. Kyle Walker hasn’t played much lately due to a drop in form, but can expect a start against weaker opposition. On the other side, though not trusted against Liverpool’s dynamic trio of attackers, Oleksandr Zinchenko should slot in at left-back.
Centre-back is an interesting one, with three of them having lined up against Liverpool – Stones and Kompany in the middle and Laporte at left-back. That should certainly mean a start for Nicolas Otamendi but who will partner him? We’re going to go with John Stones, since Kompany seldom plays two on the bounce and Laporte seemed in a little discomfort when subbed off on Thursday. The other possibility is Pep deciding to draft in Eric Garcia or Philippe Sandler – Garcia did play against Leicester in the Carabao Cup so has a chance.
In midfield, Fernandinho… won’t start. Obviously. The heroic Brazilian talisman put far too much effort in against Liverpool to play this game. We can therefore expect Ilkay Gundogan to start in the No. 6 role with Phil Foden also getting 90 minutes and Kevin De Bruyne continuing his return to full fitness in a less intense environment than the Liverpool game would have been.
Riyad Mahrez will take one of the wing roles, but with Brahim Diaz heading to Real Madrid, it will probably mean one of Leroy or Raheem starting despite also featuring against Liverpool. Sané was on the bench against Southampton last weekend, while Raz started, so we’re going with Leroy Sané on the left wing.
That leaves the striker, and Sergio Aguero was another man who put in quite a shift against Liverpool, meaning he will not start. Gabriel Jesus will lead the line and hope to add some goals to his tally.
The substitutes bench is a lottery as these type of cup games are, because Guardiola tends to leave a couple of stars at home. Our guess is: Ederson, Danilo, Eric Garcia, Aymeric Laporte, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero