Not many have been able to get their Manchester City starting XI predictions right, so far, as Pep Guardiola continues to keep everyone guessing with his team selection and way of setting up Manchester City.
Against Manchester United in the 172nd Manchester Derby, Manchester City’s full-backs were not tucked infield as much as they were against Sunderland in the opening game of this season or against Stoke City in their second league fixture. Rather, Aleksandar Kolarov and Bacary Sagna largely played as conventional full-backs who hug the touchline most of the time, while John Stones and Fernandinho kept going back and forth when City had the ball, trying to build attacks from the back. The abovementioned pattern was particularly palpable during the first 45′, when the visitors produced a dominant and an incisive attacking display.
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Jose Mourinho’s decision to select Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard ahead of Anthony Martial and Juan Mata, he explained ahead of kick-off, was to counter the Manchester City fullbacks’ propensity to tuck infield—a tactic that gives the team in possession numerical advantage in the middle and also helps them nullify potential counterattacks if and when possession has been ceded. Mourinho’s decision did not pay off because Manchester City’s left and right full-backs played conventionally and did not provide much space on the flanks for Lingard and Mkhitaryan to spring forward with menace whenever a turnover occurred.
Guardiola has continually made these small tweaks to his tactics and formations since Manchester City’s 2-1 home victory over the Black Cats. And, logically, do not be surprised if the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager continues to spring a surprise or two from game to game, starting with Manchester City’s opening 2016/17 UEFA Champions League Group C fixture against Borussia Monchengladbach (BMG), to be played on Tuesday (September 13th, 2016) at the Etihad Stadium.
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Here, Cricfooty takes a look at the probable Manchester City starting XI for Tuesday night’s clash against Monchengladbach, who lost 3-1 to SC Freiburg in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
Probable Manchester City Starting XI v BMG
Guardiola addressed the media earlier this evening—along with Raheem Sterling, one of Manchester City’s stars of the 2016/17 season so far—and provided updates on Ilkay Gundogan and Vincent Kompany’s fitness. The Catalan coach also talked about Manchester City’s UEFA Champions League history, on what he thinks about City’s Champions League group this season and analysed City’s performance in the Manchester Derby.
On Gundogan and Kompany’s fitness, Guardiola said: “Gundogan is every day much better, Vincent is the same situation—he’s training hard.” The suspended Sergio Aguero, who missed the Manchester Derby and will also miss City’s next two domestic fixtures, against Bournemouth in the Premier League and Swansea City in the EFL Cup, is back in contention, Guardiola confirmed, saying “Aguero can play.”
In Manchester City’s four league games, their midfield and attack have largely remained the same: Jesus Navas came in place of Manuel Agudo Duran (Nolito) in City’s starting line-up against Stoke City and dropped out of the starting XI for City’s home clash against West Ham United. And, in the other two league fixtures against Sunderland and Manchester United, City’s 4-1-4-1 had Nolito and Sterling playing on the flanks, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva playing as false 8s, with Fernandinho playing the defensive midfielder role. With Aguero suspended, Kelechi Iheanacho led City’s attack for the clash against United, otherwise, City’s front six have been the same, at least in the Premier League.
With Gundogan continuing his recovery, I do not see him even being on the Manchester City bench, let alone in the Manchester City starting XI, for the clash against BMG tomorrow night. So, Fernandinho is almost a certain starter. Leroy Sane replaced Sterling for the last 30 minutes of the Manchester Derby and showed glimpses of what he can provide City with, but will he start against the Bundesliga club? I have him on the Manchester City bench for tomorrow’s fixture too.
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De Bruyne, Nolito, Silva, and Sterling have played well together and I do not see Guardiola changing what is working. So, you can expect this quartet to be in the Manchester City starting XI v Borussia Monchengladbach, with Aguero also returning to the line-up, replacing City’s second-choice striker: Iheanacho.
Kompany is still on the recovery road and like Gundogan, will, in all probability, not even make the bench for City’s opening Champions League Group C Fixture. Therefore, Nicolas Otamendi and Stones, who put on a gutsy defensive display against the Red Devils, should retain their places at central defence.
The Manchester City full-backs have been the most rotated personnel in City’s opening six fixtures of their 2016/17 campaign, with Kolarov being the only one to feature in every one of City’s games so far. Sagna has played in only a couple of league fixtures and made a late appearance against Steaua Bucuresti (away) in City’s Champions League playoff tie, partly due to his hamstring injury, Pablo Zabaleta has made three league appearances, though one of those lasted only six minutes against United in the Derby, and Gael Clichy, even though he has played only twice in the league, played home and away (as a substitute for the last 15 minutes) in City’s Champions League playoff tie against Steaua Bucharest.
Kolarov will likely stay put at left-back for the clash against BMG and I expect Zabaleta to come in place of Sagna, at right-back.
In goal, Claudio Bravo will hope to fare a lot better than he did in the Manchester Derby and on his Manchester City debut. Though his collection and distribution were not great, he completed 93% of his attempted passes and can take confidence from that aspect of his game. Monchengladbach, you can be rest assured, will want to put Bravo under pressure on his home debut.
Probable Manchester City starting XI v BMG (4-1-4-1): C Bravo; P Zabaleta, J Stones, N Otamendi, A Kolarov; Fernandinho; K de Bruyne, D Silva, Nolito, R Sterling; S Aguero.
Guardiola is highly unlikely to make wholesale changes to the Manchester City starting XI for the home clash against Monchengladbach, from the one which featured against Mourinho’s Manchester United. As aforementioned, at right-back, I expect the 45-year-old manager to replace Sagna with Zabaleta and Aguero, automatically, will come in place of Iheanacho. Other than these two changes, Guardiola does not have to make any more, for City are playing like a well-oiled team with good understanding and fluidity, particularly when they go forward.
What do you make of Cricfooty’s predicted Manchester City starting XI v BMG? Tell us in the comments below.