Following a nervy 2-1 victory at the weekend, Manchester City return to their Champions League duties Wednesday night in Germany. City will look to build off their most recent European result, an impressive 3-1 victory over Barcelona at the Etihad. What stands in City’s way is an extremely difficult visit to Borussia Mönchengladbach.
A familiar foe for the Cityzens, Gladbach were in City’s Champions League group last year and though City were able to win each matchup (including the home fixture this year), Gladbach remain a tough team to beat, especially at Borussia-Park. Manager Pep Guardiola has a lot of familiarity with the Bundesliga side after this three-year stint with Bayern Munich. Despite the dominance of the Bavarian side, Mönchengladbach always provided a difficult challenge.
The good news for Guardiola is that he’s likely to have a full squad to pick from minus two players. Fabian Delph is back in training but still not quite ready and captain Vincent Kompany now has an apparent problem likely to sideline the big man for “weeks”. Other than those two, Pep can choose any other player on City’s Champions League squad.
Considering the changes made to the squad in City’s win at Crystal Palace, expect Pep to go with City’s best XI to start this game in Mönchengladbach. What exactly is the best XI is a bit up for discussion in certain positions on the pitch. I believe Pep will go with his most used formation, 4-1-4-1 with the following players:
Goalkeeper: Claudio Bravo
Bravo is the clear number one choice in goal and until the FA Cup or possibly a weaker Premier League game, we are unlikely to see backup Willy Caballero for some time. Despite the Argentine's performance against Barcelona, barring injury or a red card to Bravo, he is unlikely to see another game in the Champions League.
Defense: Bacary Sagna, Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Aleksandar Kolarov
Without Vincent Kompany the clear choice at center-back is John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi. Stones was rested against Crystal Palace simply due to his games over the international break, so the Englishman shouldn't miss this one. At left-back Kolarov continues to be the preferred choice. The biggest decision for Pep comes at right-back. Sagna has recently returned from injury and played well on the right and in the middle against Palace, but Pep might not want to push the veteran too much too fast. Pablo Zabaleta is always a possibility.
Midfield: Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva
None of the names above should be much of a surprise. Fernandinho will sit in front of the defense until his legs stop working, which might be never at this point. Sterling and Silva play out wide while De Bruyne and Gundogan operate in the middle. Silva is truly much better in the middle, but De Bruyne’s pressing and Gundogan’s timely runs into the box mean both are better suited at it. Silva can also still do what he does best out wide, which is dribbling, passing, and forcing defenders to commit out of position.
Striker: Sergio Agüero
The Argentine is City’s number one choice at striker. After another frustrating game against Palace, Agüero should be keen to get back to normalcy in the Champions League. With the imminent arrival of Gabriel Jesus, it’s important for Agüero to continue to perform at a high level every game.
So that’s our predicted lineup for City vs Gladbach. As far as a prediction, the game might be tight but City should pull through. Like last year, I’ll say City win 2-1 on a late winner from Agüero.