Manchester City have been outstanding in January, winning all seven games so far – but still find themselves four points behind Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
Recently, City have found themselves with the pressure of having to play after Jurgen Klopp’s men and being tasked with reducing seven point gaps to four. The Blues have answered that challenge and should they beat Newcastle, they would apply some pressure of their own to Liverpool by cutting their lead to just one point before the Kopites host Leicester on Wednesday.
Guardiola has had chance to rest and rotate some of his players in recent games, but we should expect a super-strong team against the Magpies with little margin for error in the league now.
Benjamin Mendy is “much better” according to Pep in his press conference on Monday, although the chances of him starting are slim. Vincent Kompany remains sidelined with fitness problems, while Claudio Bravo is a long-term absentee.
City have re-found their defensive discipline lately after it had eluded them for a while. It is 566 minutes in all competitions since they last conceded and since Roberto Firmino scored that goal, City have found the net 29 times! Aro Muric deserves some credit, having been in net for the Carabao Cup games, but it is Ederson who is City’s number one and has been in good form.
At the back, the question right now is not if Danilo should start, but on which side? The Brazilian has been in great form both on the left and right, and with no other full-back in particularly good form, it makes this one require some thought. We’re going for Danilo at left-back with Kyle Walker retaining his place at right-back.
In the centre of defence, Nicolas Otamendi has been getting plenty of time lately after Pep said the Argentina was unhappy with a lack of starts. After two recent starts for Nico, we see John Stones and Aymeric Laporte reuniting in the heart of City’s defence. That would mean a back four the same as in the 3-0 win over Wolves, when City looked very solid against quality opposition.
We really thought Fernandinho might get another rest against Burnley, but he didn’t. City could probably beat Newcastle without him, but is it a risk worth taking? We can only guess Fernandinho starts, and then comes the challenge of guessing who else makes up the midfield. Guardiola is truly spoilt for choice at the moment and we’re having trouble correctly predicting which trio he fields. KDB looked great against Burnley, but after two starts on the bounce, Pep might not want to overdo it with him, so we could see him on the bench and starting against Arsenal. David Silva hasn’t started any of the last three games, so we’re going for him in the XI, with the other spot taken up by the impressive Bernardo Silva.
Speaking of rested players, Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling haven’t played a single minute of football in the last two cup games, and should be fresh as a daisy to start against Newcastle. And despite Gabriel Jesus’ fine form, rotation should come into play with Sergio Aguero back in the starting lineup. Kun has scored an incredible 14 goals in 12 Premier League appearances against the Magpies since arriving in England – more than any player has scored against an opponent for a single club in the competition’s history. No further explanation for starting him is needed.
That leaves the bench, with no shortage of talent available. We’ll go for: Aro Muric, Benjamin Mendy, Nicolas Otamendi, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus.