So here's where it gets tricky to be the Man City manager. You play Stoke for the last match in August, and then have the first international break. Right afterwards, there are 4 big time games (and then one smaller one against Hull) in 18 days. Away at Arsenal, away at Bayern Munich, home to Chelsea, away to Hull, and home to Roma.
Brutal. Considering that some players are still not ready to go (Mangala not ready, Alvaro Negredo injured, Aguero not all the way back), who do you pick? Which players aren't going to get game time with their national team, but will be needed for the busy September stretch?
Jesus Navas has only played a little so far, and was not called up by the Spanish national squad. I expect him to get the start tomorrow. James Milner was called up, but might find himself behind guys like Oxlade-Chamberlain and Townsend on the wings, and Colback and Henderson in the middle. It wouldn't surprise me for him not to get any time with England. Does Manuel Pellegrini start both Navas and Milner? I bet that he puts Milner in the game around the 60-70 min mark.
Fernandinho hasn't really played much either, and with a competitive Brazil midfield, he will likely be in line for a start tomorrow to get some match fitness. Same goes for Bacary Sagna. With Fernando and Samir Nasri not called up, I think they'll get a good amount of game time.
The players I think will be the first choices off the bench are Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure, and Pablo Zabaleta. It wouldn't surprise me to see 3 of those four come into the game late on. Aguero in particular is almost a lock for the 60 minute sub.
Projected lineup: Joe Hart, Sagna, Vincent Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernando, Fernandinho, Navas, Nasri, Jovetic, Edin Dzeko.
Those are the players that need the game time. I wouldn't be too surprised to see Milner in there as well, but I don't think that Pellegrini wants to make too many changes from last week. That's 4 new players in the team, one of which hasn't played with the rest. Hopefully Bacary Sagna has a good game.
What to watch:
New combinations: It will look a little rough at first, as some of the guys get used to each other. Nando and Dinho are getting used to each other, and it looked a little awkward against Newcastle (although they figured it out at the end, when Fernandinho provided the assist to Aguero). Sagna and Navas will have to learn each other's tendencies on the overlap, and I expect to see some errant passes there early in the match.
Stevan Jovetic is on fire and I think he has a good understanding with Samir Nasri, which was seen in that beautiful second goal against Liverpool. I bet those two combine for some good things tomorrow.
Sergio Aguero is now fully fit, but I think that no one is in a rush to have him play too many minutes. Hopefully he doesn't play too much in the friendlies. I bet he gets in the game for 30 minutes or so. He is such a perfect substitution, ready to bend defenses with his speed at the end of the game. I wonder if his odds of scoring as a sub are higher than as a starter. Dude is unreal.
Prediction: Man City 3 - 1 Stoke City. It will be a slow start, but things will start clicking and the goals will come pouring in.