The Premier League is back! This weekend sees Manchester City face off against a tough Everton side at Etihad Stadium on Saturday. Man City and Everton met four times in two different competitions last season. City were the victors twice, lost one, and played out a draw. One of those wins was the big 3-1 victory in the League Cup semifinal propelling City into the finals.
This season brings us a very different Everton side. They’ve lost John Stones to Manchester City but were able to keep hold of prized striker Romelu Lukaku, as well as adding manager Ronald Koeman to the mix. Guardiola will have his work cut out for him in this one. After two disappointing results before the international break, Pep and City will be eager to get back to winning ways.
The tricky part for Guardiola is how does he manage the team with a huge midweek match against Barcelona coming up. City will need to be at tip top shape visiting the Camp Nou this Wednesday. A victory would mean momentum, but resting certain players against a dangerous Everton team could result in dropped points and more down feelings at the Etihad.
Below is the starting XI I believe Pep will go with this Saturday. I’ll be using an attacking 4-3-3 formation, the lack of another central attacking midfield options means Pep should drop the 4-1-4-1 that has worked so well this season. After disappointing trips to Tottenham and Celtic before the break, City need three points here and this side can certainly provide that! Comment below with who you think should be in City’s starting lineup.
Goalkeeper: Claudio Bravo
City’s undisputed number one is highly likely to be in goal for this one. Early days have seen the Chilean play in league games as well as Champions League games. Hopefully a midweek trip back to Barcelona won't distract Bravo from the difficult task at hand.
Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, Gael Clichy
City escaped the international break mostly unscathed, though Bacary Sagna will miss the next three weeks. His injury means City only have two (conventional) options at right-back. Despite Zabaleta’s poor performances over recent week, I’m not sure Pep entirely trusts young Pablo Maffeo in such an important game. Stones and Otamendi are virtual locks in the middle with Kompany still injured. At left-back, Clichy must start this game. A break was certainly needed for Aleksandar Kolarov, but with Everton’s pace on the wings Clichy should be preferred anyway.
Midfield: Fernandinho, Ilkay Gündogan, David Silva
All three of these players represented their national teams over the break to various degrees. Silva was integral in Spain’s play and Fernandinho was able to spend time with future Citizen Gabriel Jesus in Brazil. Gündogan made a return to the German national team seeing a little more than half of total game action. These three could be the spine of any winning side, and on Saturday they’ll surely be tested with Everton’s strong midfielders.
Forwards: Nolito, Sergio Agüero, Raheem Sterling
City’s favorite partnership returns after Nolito finished off his three-game domestic suspension. The Spaniard was missed sorely in games against Swansea and Tottenham. His return is welcome, while Sterling (hopefully) returns to the side after missing international duty with England due to a slight knock. Don't be surprised if Pep relegates Sterling to the bench though, as Leroy Sané could use the game time and Sterling will be a necessity come Wednesday. Aguero suffered an injury scare in training with Argentina on Monday, but played the full 90 minuteson Tuesday. If the Argentine can't go (or Pep wants him rested for Barça on Wednesday) expect Iheanacho to fill his role.
That’s our starting XI! In the end, City should be able to win this game. Despite the quality of this Everton side, City have the players and talent to win. Keeping a clean sheet would be nice, but Lukaku is always a threat to score. My prediction is a 3-1 victory for Man City with goals coming from Sterling, Agüero, and Nolito. By Saturday night everyone’s minds will travel to Spain, but hopefully City take care of business first.