Manchester City are without a win in six straight games across three different competitions. A loss and two draws in the Premier League, a loss and draw in the Champions League, and now they’ve been knocked out of the League Cup by their crosstown rivals. Needless to say things have looked better in the Pep Guardiola Era. After a dream start of ten straight wins in all competitions, City and Pep find themselves in a rut.
A weekend trip to West Bromwich Albion and Tony Pulis is anything but what the doctor ordered. Pulis is known to be able to set up a team defensively and you know he’ll have watched how Everton and Southampton managed to stifle City’s creativity. West Brom are also on a winless run of their own, but they’ve managed to pick up points in unlikely places, including a home draw against Tottenham a couple of weeks ago.
Man City can't afford any slips in this game. A midweek clash against Barcelona at the Etihad must be put completely out of their minds if City are to have any chance of ending this winless streak. City will most likely be missing their biggest key creatively in Kevin De Bruyne. While it’s possible he makes the bench, a start here seems unlikely. Also likely to miss are Fabian Delph, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna.
Between injuries, lack of fitness, and another big game in the midweek coming up, Pep has his hands full with selection issues for this weekend. I’ve predicted Guardiola will go back to the 4-1-4-1 formation that has worked so well in the past, even against better defensive teams. Comment below with your starting XI and come on City!
Goalkeeper: Claudio Bravo
No real surprises here as Bravo is clearly City’s number one. Despite Caballero playing relatively well midweek, he’s going to have his hands full with Barcelona next week. With City out of one of the cup competitions, Pep might be tempted to give Caballero more game time, but not in this one.
Defense: Pablo Maffeo, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, Aleksandar Kolarov
The young Spanish full-back acclimated well to the big match midweek against Manchester United. Considering Sagna and Zabaleta are still out and Vincent Kompany is lacking fitness, now seems more likely than ever to hand Maffeo his first Premier League start. In the middle Stones returns due to the aforementioned Kompany issue and Otamendi retains his place. Aleks Kolarov returns at the left-back spot as Pep has a clear love for the Serbian defender’s passing ability.
Midfield: Fernandinho, David Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Nolito, Raheem Sterling
Without Kevin De Bruyne the midfield can be sorted a little easier. Fernandinho sits behind and Gundogan and Silva link up with the striker. What could be missing is De Bruyne’s ability to press high up the pitch, but Gundogan has shown the ability to do an admirable job on that as well. Out wide we should see the return of Sterling and Nolito, who played less than stellar midweek but can keep the width and stretch West Brom’s defense. This selection might be the key for Pep, he rested all but one of these players midweek and Sterling came on as a sub. Silva, Fernandinho, and Gundogan should come ready to play and produce on Saturday.
Striker: Sergio Agüero
I don't think there is another striker on the planet more due than Sergio Agüero. Without a goal in what seems like an eternity now, the Argentine has cooled to the point of near frigid temperatures as of late. Perhaps his recent troubles from the penalty spot are to blame, but whatever it may be the fact is when Agüero scores City win more times than not. They’ll need one from their talisman on Saturday.
So that’s our predicted lineup. For a prediction I will still say I see City coming out ahead in this one, maybe 1-0 or 2-1. City haven't kept a clean sheet in an eternity, but West Brom aren’t the most potent attacking team in the land. If the defense can hold on to Nacer Chadli and slow him down, perhaps City will have their clean sheet. Either way, City should finally win a game here and then minds can turn to the visiting Barcelona midweek.