The reason we preface this exercise in punditry with the caveat that Pellegrini is better at this than we are is because we sincerely believed it to be true. But I'll say this: in light of the enormous minutes they played previously, and in light of depth supposedly being a team strength, and as we were playing a relatively early round of the fourth most important competition we are engaged in, I'll confidently proclaim that I sure as hell would know not to start David Silva and Yaya Toure. The risk of injury was too damn high before and during the match and paid a price for taking such a risk.
Silva is out for 3-4 weeks, Yaya could be available this weekend (which means if he's moderately healthy, he'll play) and everybody else is ready for an enormously important match. It's always a big deal when we tangle with the rags but this time around seems especially important because both clubs are at a crossroads: City can't seem to win in spite of having the same club that won a championship a year ago and United desperately wants to return to the upper echelon of English football; a win at the Etihad would to a long way toward that goal. I'll say now that if we use a 4-4-2, we're begging for trouble.
Again, Silva is out, Lampard is still hurt but everybody else is available for the picking (even Yaya).
GK--Joe Hart. I didn't see the Newcastle debacle but from what I understand, Caballero couldn't do much to stop what was coming. I'm open to correction in the comments but I still think we have a terrific backup in Caballero. Hart, though, is the obvious choice here.
LB--Gael Clichy. Tough call. The last few seasons, both LB's have played quite well against United. When Glichy is on, his speed and defense are a joy to behold.
CB--Vincent Kompany. I've been writing all season he's our team MVP but I was much more enthusiastic about that in previous weeks when we were winning games. Seems like a long time ago, that. Moving right along...
CB--Eliaquim Mangala. He needs to make himself known for something other than being the most expensive defensive signing in Premier League history.
RB--Pablo Zabaleta. Again, I missed the Newcastle match (pretty thankful for that, to be frank) but from what I could gather from the commentary and the reports, Bacary Sagna did not acquit himself well. And, again, in any case, Pablo would get the nod.
CDM--Fernandinho. If these guys get more playing time, we can start trying to work in 'between two ferns', right? Thanks, I'm here all week. On a more serious note, it is long past time for Pellegrini to embrace a robust midfield with these two and allowing Yaya to move forward as is his wont. If we allow United numbers in the midfield, we're inviting Di Maria and company free reign and that's like giving the keys to the safe. I'm not sure why this isn't obvious to our fearless leader.
RM--James Milner. If he keeps playing well and Kompany drops off at all, we might have a new MVP candidate and that would emphatically not be a good thing. Zabaleta was Player of the Year in our desultory 2012 campaign. Nothing against either but if Pablo Zabaleta and/or James Milner are your best players, your team isn't going to win the league. They're wonderful players and fan favorites for a reason but they're not as talented as the guys we need to be great in order to pad the trophy case.
CAM--Yaya Toure. Not only do I think he'll play but I think he'll play well before getting subbed off.
LM--Samir Nasri. Before he got hurt, I was ready to argue with anyone and everyone he was one of the better defenders in the league.
ST--Sergio Aguero. The last time we had a lone striker was our last win and that's more than just a coincidence.
Prediction: City 2-1 but if we play a 4-4-2 with Dzeko, I could absolutely see us getting blown off the pitch.