Pep Guardiola offered no real clues at his press conference about his team selection for Tuesday night’s Champions League tie against Shakhtar Donetsk, and with so many options available and rotation possibly in his mind, picking a team is tougher than ever.
The City boss did reveal that Kyle Walker is back and available for selection, as are Kevin De Bruyne and Benjamin Mendy who returned against Burnley and came through the game unscathed.
So how will Pep line his troops up for a crucial game that will go a long way to determining the outcome of Group F?
The easiest position to pick is of course goalkeeper, with Ederson nailed on to start between the sticks.
Things get trickier with the defence, particularly in the middle where Pep often changes things around. We’re doubtful that Vincent Kompany will start again, narrowing it down to three, and are going with John Stones and Aymeric Laporte in the centre of defence.
Pep could easily opt for three at the back, but we’re going for a back four with Benjamin Mendy and the returning Kyle Walker completing an awesome defence. Because of injuries, we haven’t seen nearly enough of those two on opposite flanks and they will be a nightmare for opponents bombing up and down each side.
Once again, Guardiola has little choice but to play Fernandinho in midfield. It’s being reported that City may not move for another midfielder until the summer, so let’s hope Fernandinho can endure a long and tiring season playing so much.
David Silva was incredible at the weekend, although Pep Guardiola does seem reluctant to overwork him nowadays. We’ll still go for him to start alongside the other Silva, Bernardo Silva, which would mean Kevin De Bruyne on the bench. It could go either way, and KDB could start having gotten minutes into his legs at weekend.
Riyad Mahrez was impressive at the weekend against Burnley but I see rotation occuring here with Raheem Sterling back on the right, but the in-form Leroy Sané retaining his place on the other side.
The ideal situation would be for Gabriel Jesus to rotate in and out of the side with Aguero, but the Brazilian is still struggling for goals and an important Champions League away day may not be the time to take a risk, so we’re going for the reliable Sergio Aguero to again lead the line.
On the bench we’ll see young Aro Muric, with Nicolas Otamendi and Oleksandr Zinchenko providing defensive cover. Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden will be the midfielders in reserve, with Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus available to be called on if needed later in the game.
champions league, shakhtar vs. city