Manchester City face off against Borussia Monchengladbach at the Etihad Stadium on matchday 6 of this season’s UEFA Champions League, having already qualified for the knockout stages of the competition.
They have been poor, however, over the last month, winning only a couple of their six games during the aforementioned period. The last 30 days of City’s campaign have also seen them endure some damaging defeats against the likes of Liverpool, Juventus and Stoke City.
Talking of their Champions League campaign, Manuel Pellegrini’s men clinched qualification for the R-16 stage with two games to spare. Going into the away game against Juventus on matchday 5, City had the opportunity to finish as the winners from group D. Their poor attacking display against the Old Lady, however, saw them lose 1-0, relinquishing control over their desire to top the group. They could still finish as winners from group D, but City need to win against the Bundesliga side and hope that Sevilla do them a favor by beating Massimiliano Allegri’s men.
So, how should Pellegrini set his side up for the clash against Monchengladbach? What are the changes in personnel we can expect, from the side that lost 2-0 to the Potters last Saturday?
Manchester City injury news
Only Yaya Toure, of the players who were ineligible for the clash against Stoke due to injuries, is available for selection against Monchengladbach. Vincent Kompany (calf), Sergio Aguero (heel), Pablo Zabaleta (knee ligament), and Samir Nasri (hamstring) continue being unavailable for selection. Fernando Reges, who was just getting into his groove and proving his worth to City, picked up a hamstring injury last Saturday and is sidelined for tonight’s game. Martin Demichelis is said to have picked up a tendon problem, which is not expected to keep the Argentine centre-back out for long, but is definitely out of tonight’s game.
Should-be Manchester City’s starting XI v Borussia Monchengladbach
Looking at the system Pellegrini could deploy his side in, 4-2-3-1 looks the most likely to be adopted. City’s 1-3 victory over Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium came when they lined up in the 4-3-3 system that enabled them to play with attacking dynamism while being extremely solid out of possession, too. On that night, however, the Cityzens had Fernando and Kompany lending them defensive security, with someone like Toure given license to roam forward.
For tonight’s game, not only will they be without the Fernando-Kompany duo, but also have David Silva available to play in his first Champions League game after last featuring for City against Monchengladbach at their stadium on matchday 2. The Spaniard’s best position is behind the striker and Pellegrini is likely to play him there too, in what should be a 4-2-3-1 system.
Eliaquim Mangala trained with the squad yesterday, after missing out on Saturday’s game at the Britannia Stadium due to a 1-match suspension for accumulating five yellow cards. He will come in as a direct replacement for Demichelis and partner Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of the City backline. In the two fullback positions, Bacary Sagna, as the only available right-back, and Aleksandar Kolarov should retain their places from Saturday’s game.
It will be interesting to see how Pellegrini picks his central and attacking midfielders. With Toure available for selection, he is sure to return to City’s starting XI and captain the side against Monchengladbach. But who does the Ivorian come in place of? Does he replace Raheem Sterling, who has turned 21 today and had a poor game against Stoke last weekend? Does he simply replace the injured Fernando and play alongside Fernandinho in one of the two defensive midfield positions?
It is difficult to give definite answers to those questions. There have been a few times already this season when Toure has occupied the No.10 role, in the away games against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, which were missed by Silva. He played behind Aguero and Bony, respectively, making just one assist – for Kevin de Bruyne’s goal against Mauricio Pochettino’s side – in the two games. With Silva in the starting lineup, Toure need not be deployed in the No.10 role, doing which would be at the cost of having to move Silva to the left or right of the 32-year-old Ivorian midfielder.
Moving on, I expect de Bruyne to retain his place from the side that did not even play to half its potential at the Britannia Stadium, where the Belgian completed a mere 63% of his attempted passes and endured what was arguably his worst game for City since making the summer move from Wolfsburg. The 24-year-old should not have any problem playing on the right or left-wing positions tonight, depending on who plays as the third attacking midfielder. Sterling’s place could be under direct threat from Jesus Navas. The English winger could not make the desired impact against Mark Hughes’ side, as he was nullified by Glen Johnson who played at right-back on Saturday.
Upfront, Wilfried Bony should continue to lead the line, with Aguero missing and Kelechi Iheanacho not a part of City’s champions league squad.
City need to tighten up defensively, as they have been too easy to unlock over the last month. They have failed to keep a single cleansheet in their last quintet of games across all competitions, and Monchengladbach will feel confident of posing more problems for the City backline tonight. Having said that, City have also lacked ammunition and precision going forward. Only an all-round performance will help City garner three points and keep them in the hunt to top group D, at the expense of Juventus.