Manchester City haven't won in their last five games, which is not the best run of form heading into a Manchester Derby in the League Cup. Being drawn together, the two Manchester clubs were handed an extra Derby game this year after already playing one earlier in September. Once again the show takes place at Old Trafford, with City looking to pick up another win after their 2-1 victory earlier in the Premier League season.
City might be without the services of a few key players, most importantly Kevin De Bruyne who suffered a knock in the first half this past weekend against Southampton. Also likely to miss out are both right-backs Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta, leaving Pep with quite a few selection issues. Guardiola must also decide on the formation he plans on playing, which may be decided by the personnel available to him. In the last five games we’ve seen City lineup in a 4-3-3 false nine, 4-1-4-1, and even a 3-1-4-1-1.
The two biggest questions in terms of selection for Pep seem to be, will City lineup with a back four and who will take De Bruyne’s spot? While those might be the biggest issues, there’s also the question of who to rest considering the amount of competitions City are in this season. Could the League Cup campaign be a casualty to other competitions?
Below is the predicted XI for Wednesday evening. I believe Pep will use the 4-1-4-1 formation in this one. Without De Bruyne, City will need another player to press high through the middle with the striker. Despite this being a League Cup match, it’s still a Derby and City being winless adds to the pressure to pick up a win.
Goalkeeper: Willy Caballero
This was Caballero’s competition last season and despite Bravo being first choice, Pep knows he can't play every single game and might have a partial eye on picking up three points in the league at the weekend. This could be good practice as well considering Caballero has to face Barcelona next week at the Etihad.
Defense: Pablo Maffeo, John Stones, Vincent Kompany, Gael Clichy
The defense is probably the toughest to pick in this team. No Zabaleta or Sagna mean Pablo Maffeo gets the nod for me. He wouldn't have been promoted to the first team if he couldn't start when needed, and right now he’s needed. Stones and Kompany should partner at the back against as they were actually good against Southampton, except for one mistake. Clichy makes his way back in place of Kolarov giving City more pace out wide to combat United’s pace on the wings with Martial, Rashford and Lingard.
Midfield: Fernandinho, Leroy Sané, Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Nolito
Three wingers? Not quite, Fernandinho takes his place covering the back four and David Silva is in his usual position in the attacking midfield role. In this formation Sterling is deployed into De Bruyne’s spot through the middle. This would allow Sterling to press higher next to the striker and work with Silva through the middle. Out left Nolito should start as he’s always a goal threat, and on the right Leroy Sané is really starting to get comfortable, which should terrify whoever United play at full-back. The only caveat I’d like to add here is Ilkay Gundogan could start ahead of David Silva, as both have been not so good recently and both could use a rest as well, but I think Gundogan needs the rest more.
Striker: Sergio Agüero
The Argentine missed out on the last Derby due to a domestic suspension and he should be ready to go in this one. Without a goal in quite some time, surely Agüero is due to pop up with one in this one. Iheanacho scored again as a substitute at the weekend and if Aguero isn't working out, we might see a switch early in the second half.
So that’s our starting XI for this week's Manchester Derby in the League Cup. Comment below with who you think will be in City’s starting lineup. How does Pep solve the full-back conundrum? Who replaces Kevin De Bruyne, who was so instrumental in the first Derby victory for City? Regardless, even though I always predict City to win, I’m going to do it again! City win 3-1 with goals from Agüero, Sterling, and Sané. Come on City!