A massive game kicks off this weekend's Premier League matches with Manchester City playing host to Chelsea at Etihad Stadium. A clash of third against first in the table respectively with only one point separating the two clubs. Chelsea are one of the hottest teams in the league, but City have shown a propensity to step up in big games so far this season.
Predicting City’s lineup is never easy, especially as the squad gets healthier. The only two names not available will most likely be Vincent Kompany and the much maligned Fabian Delph. This means Pep Guardiola will have more than a few tough decisions to make. First and foremost are which midfielders get in the squad.
While Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne are usually locks, Yaya Touré, David Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, and even Fernando are all in the conversation for Saturday. Add to that some of City’s midfielders can play on the wing and Pep will have his hands full with this selection.
The fact City have had this whole week to prepare can only mean good things come Saturday. While the team might still struggle, they should be adequately prepared and rested going into this enormous clash.
For our prediction, I believe City will go with a 4-1-4-1, and even though a 4-3-3 would be beneficial against Chelsea’s back three, Pep should opt for a formation that has had success before and not experiment.
Goalkeeper: Claudio Bravo
No doubt about this one, as long as the Chilean is healthy, he is City’s number one choice. Second choice Willy Caballero most likely isn't the man to take the number one shirt, so until City dive into the transfer market, Bravo is the man in goal.
Defense: Bacary Sagna, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, Aleksandar Kolarov
There’s only really two questions about the selection of defenders. Does Zabaleta or Sagna start and where does Kolarov play. If Kolarov plays in the middle, then Stones likely misses out. Against fast wingers like Chelsea Pep might opt for Clichy to provide more pace on the wings. In the end, Pep needs to go with the eleven he believes are his best and at the moment this is probably the back four to meet that requirement.
Midfield: Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva
As stated above, Fernandinho sitting in front of the back four is a virtual lock, as well as De Bruyne being more advanced. Around those players I see Pep going with his most talented guys, that would be Sterling on the right, Silva on the left and Gundogan next to De Bruyne. While City might benefit more from a natural winger like Nolito or Jesus Navas on the pitch, Silva offers too much possession and passing ability to be left out. Sterling gets another game on the right, but Leroy Sané is coming for that spot soon.
Striker: Sergio Agüero
It’s a real shame Kelechi Iheanacho is behind Agüero and will soon be behind Gabriel Jesus in the striker pecking order. It’s not like Iheanacho can even be converted to an attacking midfielder because City have a lot of those as well. Agüero got a brace last week and will need to be at his absolute best if City are to gain anything from Chelsea.
So that’s our predicted lineup. As far as a game prediction I believe there will be goals a plenty. City have a leaky defense, but terrifying offense and Chelsea have been red hot lately. 2-2 seems a fair result going in and I’m sure both clubs would take a hard earned point on Saturday afternoon.