The long(er) Champions League journey starts earlier than we’re used to tonight and seems to have come so very soon after our opening Premier League game last Saturday evening.
No cries yet from City of this game coming too soon after a late KO at the weekend (just 72 hours and 25 minutes or there abouts separate the two games) but also no hint from Pep of any injuries or fatigue.
Straight to it then…
Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.
Fluid 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 come 4-2-4:
I said in my pre-match piece before the Sunderland game that it was going to take me some time - and would find it difficult - to predict Guardiola’s first few line-ups and formation. As it turned out I got 7 from the starting 11 correct (not too bad) and was there or there abouts with the line-up, I think…although occasionally slipping into a 2-7-1 formation with Clichy & Sagan added to the midfield did throw me for a while.
Tonight’s game is even harder for me to predict – some players may be given a ‘precautionary rest’ or may just not be selected to start, at least, so that Pep can maintain his ‘high intensity’ game just 3-days after a domestic fixture; 72 hours that has included a 1,800-mile flight / journey.
I think it’s safe to assume for now, at least, that Willy is going to ‘get the nod’ ahead of Joe.
Starting with the MIDDLE of the defence, I’m going for new signing John to be asked to ‘go again’ but, this time, I think he’ll be partnered by Nicholas; who was on the subs bench as a safeguard 3 days ago having-had a slight ‘niggly issue’. It was suggested by Pep last Friday that the Argentine should be okay for tonight. That being the case, I’ve gone for Pep using Aleks & Pablo as the flanking defenders and my reasoning is this. Gael played an energetic role on Saturday evening (being subbed on 80 minutes) and although Aleks had a decent, 7/10’er against the Black Cats in central defence; he wasn’t exactly ‘tested to the full’ and, therefore, I think he’ll be the fresher of the two left-backs. In addition, with Otamendi & Stones in the middle that’ll give licence for Aleks to overlap the left-winger and support some of our attacks against the Romanian side, which I’m sure Pep will be asking him to do. Zaba for Sagna is far simpler – it’s a change from a player who played 94-minutes+ at the weekend to one who didn’t play at all (and who looked trim and raring to go in the last pre-season game).
Pep has stated in his pre-match press conference for this game the importance of scoring away from home in the Champions League and so I’m risking, in some ways, a ‘double fail’ here in my first midfield selection. Despite what he said I’m still going for him to inject some fresh midfield legs in the form of mostly-defence-minded-pair Fabian & Fernando. To me, if he goes with this, it’ll then provide the opportunity for the 4 players ahead of that duo to really focus on the attack…and for those I’m going for all ‘go again’ players in Nolito, Kevin, Raheem and Sergio.
So…a mixture of personnel who will have to find the energy for another game in 72-hours mixed with 4 pairs of fresh legs.
Good mixed bench but one with, notably, no recognised central defender (although these days ANYONE under Pep can player there!) Joe the sad-looking ‘keeper insurance’ and two flanking defenders in Gael & Bacary. Fernandinho & David to provide an injection of attacking & creative midfield drive if / when needed; Jesus & Kelechi the pace & goal threat weapons from the ‘7 on the side’.
- Eliaquim Mangala (not chosen to be in the Champions League squad of 21 for the two play-off games / likely to be sold or loaned-out soon)
- Jason Denayer (not chosen to be in the Champions League squad of 21 for the two play-off games / also likely to be sold or loaned-out soon)
- Ilkay Gundogan (recovering from injury)
- Yaya Toure (not chosen to be in the Champions League squad of 21 for the two play-off games / regaining fitness)
- Samir Nasri (not chosen to be in the Champions League squad of 21 for the two play-off games / possibly to be sold soon)
- Leroy Sane (injured)
- Oleksandr Zinchenko (not chosen to be in the Champions League squad of 21 for the two play-off games / highly likely to be loaned-out soon for the remainder of the season)
- Wilfried Bony (not chosen to be in the Champions League squad of 21 for the two play-off games / likely to be sold soon).
Do I agree with Pep’s (predicted) line-up?
Can’t argue with that at all.
Result? I know nothing…NOTHING about the opposition at all and, so, how could I possibly predict an outcome? But I’ll try.
Looking at their league, which I also know nothing about, they finished a lowly 5th from a table of just 14 teams (how can that possibly push you into the Champions League play-off places?!)
I’m sure it’ll be a fierce atmosphere and I’ve little doubt that the home side will be up for a crack at one of Pep Guardiola’s sides. I’m going for them to score…but I’m also going for us to score more, before bringing them back to the Etihad next week.
Expected weather conditions during the game: Despite clear, evening skies it’ll be a stifling, energy-sapping 84F with no breeze to speak of. We could see a couple of player ‘water breaks’…