Since their defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester, Manchester City have been back in scintillating form with four wins in a row, including the 2-1 win over Liverpool that reignited the title race.
On Monday, the Blues face a different challenge in the form of Wolves, the first side to take any points off City in the league earlier this season.
Nuno Espírito Santo’s side have been hugely impressive in many of their games against the Premier League’s elite, taking points off City, United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, while eliminating Liverpool from the FA Cup.
Last season’s Championship winners are packed with talent and are a team to treat with respect, which is why Pep is sure to field one of his strongest available sides on Monday night.
Here’s our go at predicting Pep’s XI as City look to keep the pressure up on Liverpool.
Everything is looking quite rosy on the injury front, with everyone likely to be available except Claudio Bravo and Benjamin Mendy, the latter of whom is edging closer to his return.
Pep said on Friday that Aguero has trained following the flu, while Vincent Kompany has been recovering from his efforts in the Liverpool game. Pep didn’t 100% confirm their availability but seemed optimistic.
Aro Muric enjoyed a clean sheet against Burton in City’s Carabao Cup demolition of League One’s Burton during the week, but it’ll be Ederson back in goal on Monday.
The right-back position is interesting right now, with Danilo favoured of late but Kyle Walker performed well against Burton. It gives Guardiola a dilemma and leaves us guessing, but we’re going for Kyle Walker to get his first league start in a while. On the opposite flank, Zinchenko has started the last two cup games after Pep preferred Laporte against Liverpool, clearly not trusting the Ukrainian’s defensive abilities. With Wolves likely to provide an attacking threat, we’re going for Fabian Delph to play his first game since his Boxing Day red card against Leicester.
Guardiola has been juggling his centre-backs quite a lot lately, with game time for Nico Otamendi and Vincent Kompany, both of whom have been performing well. That gives the boss another big decision, which two of his four experienced options to play. Given that Otamendi played both cup games, we’re ruling him out. Kompany may be available and is the sort of player who can re-enter the starting XI out of nowhere. Despite that, we’re going for Aymeric Laporte and John Stones to reunite after a spell apart.
Two rests mean Fernandinho will have had a one-and-a-half week break by the time he lines up against Wolves, which we expect him to. The kind cup draws have been a blessing, allowing Guardiola to rest his midfield general, who needs to be preserved as much as possible with the tough games coming up. Starting with the Brazilian, we reckon, will be Kevin De Bruyne and… boy, this is a tough one. Gundogan has been in fantastic form, Bernardo was incredible against Liverpool, and David Silva is David Silva. Who does Pep choose? Given that he was unused against Rotherham and a second half sub against Burton, we’re going for Bernardo Silva as the final midfielder against Wolves.
Ahead of the midfield, we see both Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling on the wings. After their exertions against Liverpool, Pep has rotated them in and out, with Riyad Mahrez getting two starts, and though the Algerian was productive in both games against lower league opposition, we see him sitting this one out.
And so we come to the forward, the great Sergio Aguero against Gabriel Jesus, who has scored five goals in his last two games in the cup. Jesus wasn’t great despite his goal against Rotherham, but was a killer against Burton, showing the sort of form he did after his arrival. It’s a tough choice this, with Jesus having momentum, but Wolves are a step up and Sergio Aguero is well-rested after his goal against Liverpool and primed to start if fit and able.
That leaves the bench, which will look something like Aro Muric, Danilo, Nicolas Otamendi (or Vincent Kompany), Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus. Wow.