If you go through history and semi finals played over two legs, you’d be hard pressed to find one team taking a 9-0 lead into the second game. But that is the advantage Manchester City have over Burton Albion heading into Wednesday’s match, after the Blues ruthlessly demolished their League One opposition at the Etihad Stadium.
The comprehensive first leg victory means Pep Guardiola can rest many of his hard-working first team stars, something he confirmed he plans to do. A host of youngsters have been training with the first team squad, making this a tricky lineup to predict. But we’ll give it a go!
The big news is that Benjamin Mendy is back! Hopefully this time he can avoid further serious injuries as he brings something very unique to the team bombing down the left. Mendy will travel with the squad and may make the bench, but will not start.
Club captain Vincent Kompany is having some fitness problems and is missing. A score of youngsters and fringe players have been training with the team, including Eliaquim Mangala, Philippe Sandler, Eric Garcia, Luke Bolton, Ian Carlo Poveda, Felix Nmecha, Taylor Richards and Iker Pozo. Mangala will not play any part, with Pep implying there could be a transfer coming up for him, but the rest have a shot of featuring at some point.
One of easy predictions for this XI is the inclusion of Carabao Cup goalkeeper Aro Muric, who was the hero against Leicester in the last round and played in the first leg against Burton.
In defence, it gets much trickier with a whole bunch of possibilities. At right-back, both Walker and Danilo have been featuring of late, but we’re going with Luke Bolton getting a run-out. The local lad was good in pre-season and made Fabinho look slow against Liverpool. At left-back, Oleksandr Zinchenko should come back in and incredibly, if our predictions pan out, will be the most experienced of the back-line in a City shirt. That’s because we’re going for a centre-back partnership of Philippe Sandler and Eric Garcia, the latter of whom seems high on Pep’s list of prospects and has gotten game time in this competition.
Two of the three midfielders will be Kevin De Bruyne – still searching for peak fitness – and Phil Foden, who enjoys plenty of minutes in cup competitions. That leaves one spot, and while it could be one of the youngsters, we think it’ll be Delph or Gundogan holding and are going with Fabian Delph in his former position.
On the wings, we can expect a start for Riyad Mahrez who wasn’t even in the squad at weekend but should return. On the other side, with Brahim Diaz gone, we have a feeling one of the youngsters will get a shot and will go for Ian Carlo Poveda, who is a technically gifted winger. Rabbi Matondo, currently linked with Bayern Munich and other clubs, seemed like an obvious choice for a match like this but we understand he is currently injured.
Up front, Gabriel Jesus is the logical choice as Pep will want him to continue his goal scoring momentum for the matches ahead when he’ll be rotating with Aguero.
That would leave a subs bench of something like: Ederson, Benjamin Mendy, Nicolas Otamendi, Ilkay Gundogan,
Iker Pozo Claudio Gomes (Pozo featured against Sunderland tonight, Gomes didn’t), Taylor Richards and Felix Nmecha. Expect Mendy to get a short-ish run out towards the end. Perhaps Pep will include one or two more experienced heads, but this seems like a perfect opportunity to rest as many players as possible with big games coming up.