Manchester City supporters are probably still trying to come down after such an amazing game on Tuesday night. Beating Barcelona in the Champions League isn't something often accomplished, and City have the right to feel very good about themselves right now. However, focus needs to shift to Middlesbrough, a struggling lower table team who needs all the points they can muster.
Middlesbrough will almost certainly be looking at the way Southampton played Man City a few weeks ago as the blueprint for escaping the Etihad with points. The biggest difference is that City team was sliding and without a win in quite some time. Right now, City might be more confident than they’ve been in the last two seasons and that should spell trouble for Middlesbrough.
Manager Pep Guardiola has an interesting dilemma in his selection for this game. With an international break coming up, logic says he can use the same lineup that beat Barça and should see success. However, City still have some concerns with full fitness and rest, and Pep has often opted for three at the back against perceived weaker Premier League sides as a way of opening up the other team.
In the end the old adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” should ring true. I believe Pep will go with his 3-2-4-1 using one of his defensive mids in more of a right-back role if need be. Below are the eleven players I think Pep will start with against Middlesbrough, comment down below your ideal starting XI!
Goalkeeper: Claudio Bravo
Despite Willy’s play midweek and helping City to a stupendous win against Barça, the Chilean returns to the net mouth with City’s number one shirt this weekend. Another mistake though and things might be a little interesting.
Defense: Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones, Aleksandar Kolarov
It worked against West Brom, it should work here. All three of these defenders played well against Barça, but it’ll be a different sort of test this weekend against Boro. Concentration will be the key if City are to keep another clean sheet in the Premier League.
Defensive Midfield: Fernando, Fernandinho
Both Brazilians played extraordinarily well midweek and both truly deserve to be in this starting lineup. I believe Pep will use Fernando as his pseudo right-back if City are under it a bit, but when in possession these two should be capable of passing around a weaker Middlesbrough side.
Attacking Midfield: Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne
This quartet of players worked so well and so fluidly against Barça, it’s hard to see anyone else cracking the starting lineup at this point. Nolito, Leroy Sané and Jesus Navas have all played well at times, but these four are on a different level at the moment. De Bruyne can really play anywhere: up front, out wide, through he middle, it’s a sight to behold. Ilkay Gundogan will also look to keep up his great run of form.
Striker: Sergio Agüero
Pep needs Aguero and, though he may not want to admit it, Agüero needs Pep. These two might not see eye to eye 100% of the time, but it’s clear if each are working their hardest for the other, this has the potential to be a wonderful partnership.
So that’s our predicted lineup! As far as a score prediction, surely City have to be up and ready for this one. I’ll predict 3-0 City victory, goals from Agüero, Gundogan and Sterling. Surely the Englishman is next up to break his goal scoring drought, right? Thanks for reading and as always come on City!