Manchester City were denied a win in a competitive fixture for the first time under Pep Guardiola. The midweek trip to Glasgow saw City’s defense crumble while conceding three goals to the Scottish champions. The Blues will be looking to rebound, but are facing what could be their toughest Premier League yet.
Tottenham Hotspur are sitting second in the table despite missing their star striker Harry Kane. Spurs have been buoyed by the tremendous play of Son Heung-Min and a strong defense. The Korean forward has four goals in his last three Premier League games and got the winner for Spurs in Moscow midweek in the Champions League. City’s defensive play could be the difference in this top-of-the-table matchup.
Spanish winger Nolito is still suspended for City, leaving Pep with a bit of a selection headache. When the Spaniard was out against Swansea City, Pep opted to play De Bruyne on the right and Sterling on the left with Silva and Gundogan playing more centrally. De Bruyne misses out through injury leaving the middle of the park for Gundogan and Silva, but who does Pep play out wide?
Below I’ve highlighted the starting XI I believe Pep will select for this crucial top of the table matchup. Be sure to leave your starting XI’s down below!
Goalkeeper: Claudio Bravo
It seems Pep will use Caballero in domestic cup games and Bravo in all others. Pep discarded with club hero Joe Hart to bring in the Chilean, so I see no way he drops him.
Defense: Bacary Sagna, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, Gael Clichy
John Stones must play, simple as that. The England center-back was rested for the first hour midweek and City’s defense was a disaster. Trying to contain Tottenham’s potent attack, City will need their defense to be spot on, and for that reason Stones and Otamendi should partner in the middle. Sagna gets the nod at right-back as Zabaleta played midweek and I’ve gone with Clichy as Kolarov seems in dire need of a rest. The international break will do Aleks well, and I’d prefer Clichy’s pace out wide.
Midfield: Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sané
I’ve picked Leroy Sané ever since Nolito was suspended, but the German has yet to feature in a Premier League starting XI. After the lethargic first half against Swansea last week, I believe Pep will opt for pace on the wings and go with Sané and Sterling. In the middle Fernandinho must have a better game than he did against Celtic if City are to have any chance. It’ll be his job to break up Spurs’ counter-attacks and keep track of Christian Eriksen. Silva and Gundogan have not looked well together yet, but they are two world-class midfielders and when they get it right, they’ll play beautiful football together.
Striker: Sergio Agüero
While Kelechi Iheanacho has played very well this season, Agüero is one of the world’s best and when he’s healthy (and not suspended) he’s the first name on the team sheet. Perhaps one day Pep will experiment with a two striker formation, though that’s not really his style, it’ll be interesting once Gabriel Jesus joins the fold in January.
Predicted Formation (4-3-3 / 4-1-4-1)
Now that you know my starting XI, it’s time for a prediction. I believe City will squeak out a winner in a thrilling 3-2 game. A goal from Sterling and a brace for Agüero sees the Citizens gain a valuable three points and maintain their perfect start in the Premier League. Supporters remember the 4-1 embarrassment in this fixture last year, hopefully Pep has the team ready and the Blues will pick up a huge three points on Sunday!