The Premier League is back! After a long international break, fans of the league can rejoice as the next one isn't for quite some time. Manchester City have the ability to cleanse the palette of supporters after a disappointing 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough right before the break, visiting Crystal Palace with what looks to be a fully fit City side, minus one Fabian Delph.
If everyone is well and truly fit, manager Pep Guardiola might have his hands full with his starting XI selection on Saturday. In terms of formation, the biggest question is most likely three or four at the back. With the returning Bacary Sagna, might Pep go for a more defensively safe four-man backline?
In the midfield, the question isn't so much who plays, but rather where they lineup. With Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, and Ilkay Gundogan all fit, someone will most likely have to be played out wide with the other two occupying space in the middle. Up front there is little doubt Sergio Agüero will start, but could the Argentine be in trouble in six weeks when Gabriel Jesus joins the squad?
Below are the eleven players I believe Pep Guardiola will select this Saturday. I’ve chosen the 4-1-4-1 formation as I believe it provides the best cover defensively, while still providing a potent attack.
Goalkeeper: Claudio Bravo
Barring suspension or injury, the Chilean is Pep’s clear number one at the moment. City have been linked with several keepers over the last few months and until Bravo’s play proves otherwise, they will just continue to be linked.
Defense: Pablo Zabaleta, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, Aleksandar Kolarov
An away trip to Palace might not seem like an important game, but with how close each of the top teams are in the Premier League, every game is important. Pep has shown a tendency towards these four defenders in big games. This probably isn't the right time to bring in Kompany or Sagna yet, but don't be surprised to see either as a sub if City are ahead later on.
Midfield: Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, David Silva
Fernandinho sits in front of the back four, and until there’s another cup game or an injury, that’s who plays that spot. In front of the Brazilian we should see Gundogan and De Bruyne through the middle with Silva and Sterling out wide. Sometimes Silva is a bit wasted on the left, but De Bruyne is too valuable pressing with the striker to be shipped out wide. Expect those two to rotate as the game goes on in any case.
Striker: Sergio Agüero
As I stated above, Agüero should be no doubt in terms of starting, however things might get interesting once Gabriel Jesus joins the squad in January. Will the Brazilian and Argentinian play together? Only time will tell.
So that’s our predicted lineup for City vs. Palace this Saturday. In terms of a score prediction, City’s quality should be enough to see them through, I’m thinking 2-0. Goals from Agüero and Sterling cap off a nice win for the boys in Blue.