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Predicted CL Lineup and Other Things of Interest

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Who Plays. Who Sits. What Else Is Happening.

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As you no doubt know, City has a 3-1 lead against Dynamo Kiev in their current CL tie. It is, of course, enormously important for City to advance for the first time ever to the quarterfinals. It is, of course, difficult to believe they won't do so. In order to shatter City's hopes, Kiev would have to make up for the three road goals they gave up last month. More specifically, a 2-0 win does them no good; they have to win 3-0, 4-1, 5-2... it's all but beyond belief it could happen no matter who Manuel Pellegrini decides to start.

So who should start?

We found out today Yaya is healthy enough to play. We also found out a few hours ago that Fabian Delph is training and might play. Silva is still nursing his chronically screwed up left ankle which suffers at least three-to-five specifically targeted tackles a game (damn right I'm complaining) and we're looking at an enormously important derby in a mere five days hence. Pellegrini has to be considering a number of stressful questions: do you risk Aguero? Kompany even? Do you use Yaya or Silva against a very physical Kiev squad? You could start them and take them off at the half or keep them on the bench and use the 'break open only when necessary' philosophy. And at the risk of alienating all of you who have read this far, I'm damned if I know. The only starting lineup harder to predict than this one was that horrific FA Cup tie against Chelsea. Here goes.

GOALKEEPER

Not much mystery here. Barring injury, Willy Caballero's last appearance is the game that will result in free drinks from City fans for as long as he draws breath.

  • Who Should Start: Joe Hart
  • Will Actually Play: Joe Hart
LEFT BACK

Gael Clichy and Aleksander Kolarov have seemingly taken bi-monthly shifts as the LB Pellegrini trusts most. Right now, Clichy is clearly the guy and for good reason--with the notable exception of this past Saturday, he's been more of an offensive threat than at virtually any time in his City career. Kolarov was known as the offensive guy and Clichy the defensive one but now Gael is filling both roles nicely. That said, I think Clichy--who is one of lord knows how many Citizens to recover from a major injury this season--needs to be saved for Sunday. Use the Serbian.
  • Who Should Start: Aleksander Kolarov
  • Will Actually Play:  Aleksander Kolarov
CENTER BACK

Where I live--the United States--the media is relentless in the information it gives to sports fans. Pick a sport, any sport. You want to know who had a great practice, who might be on the outs because of performance, who had a locker room blowup, what's going on in the front office? I swear, if you're a reporter, you'll have a source to fill you in. Sometimes, the source is the player himself. Sometimes, it's one of the coaches. Most of the time, it's an agent. In world football (as opposed to American tackle football) we fans and media get virtually nothing like it; clubs give the media the New England Patriots treatment only with more charm. This is a long way of explaining why I think Eliaquim Mangala should start. He's healthy, we've got the three road goals but I'd feel more comfortable if I knew how he was training, how good he looked in practice, etc. But we never get this information in a substantive way, certainly not like what we get here in the states. It's frustrating. End of rant.
  • Who Should Start: Eliaquim Mangala
  • Will Actually Play: Nicolas Otamendi (the only outfield player not to get hurt. Let's not tempt fate, Manuel.)
CENTER BACK

The argument for Otamendi taking a seat--the risk of injury--should perhaps be especially true here for Vincent Kompany. But I'm going on the hunch that Kompany, coming off his best game of the season, wants to keep the momentum going. If the game is in hand after 45 minutes, take him off and bring on someone else. I'll add this--barring a complete City collapse, Kompany is on the top of my list of guys who should not play the entire game or anything close to it.
  • Who Should Start: Vincent Kompany
  • Will Actually Play: Vincent Kompany
RIGHT BACK

Oh, Pablo Zabaleta? He is a favored man. Yes, he's Argentinian and is tougher than Jaap Stam. There's no one more admired who plays for Pellegrini's men, but if he plays and gets hurt, what will happen then?
  • Who Should Start: Bacary Sagna
  • Will Actually Play: Bacary Sagna
LEFT MIDFIELD

Jack Hancock of the Facebook group True Blue View wrote the following about the endless complaints surrounding Raheem Sterling's production, or lack thereof. His conclusion? Same as mine--Sterling has been Sterling. From Jack:

You have to try and look at other players and what they were doing at that age. The season Ronaldo turned 21, he only scored 12. When Bale turned 21 he looked crap.


Another thing to put it in context when you're talking about goals, since we didn't s
ign him as a goalscorer - he's got 11 this season. The most David Silva has EVER scored in a season is 12. When he was 21 he scored 6. People need to stop judging him on the number of goals scored, because it's a secondary part of his game. 

Last season, when he turned 20, he created 75 chances. Hazard and Ozil are the ONLY two players to create more chances in any of the top 5 leagues the year they turned 20. Messi didn't. Ronaldo, Bale, Silva, Sanchez, Zidane, Kaka, Figo...none of them did, and they're some of the best players European football has ever seen.

And now he's adapting to life under the most intense media scrutiny, all of whom want him to fail. He gets booed non-stop at almost every game. F***ing Norwich were booing him on Saturday. Sure, he needs to improve, but I don't doubt for a second that he will.

I'm not saying he's been awesome, he hasn't, but people need to give him time.


I couldn't have said it better myself. City actually thought they underpaid for him when everybody and their respective mothers were saying we overpaid. Sterling is one of the most exciting and prosperous young talents in the world and we've got him. This is a good thing.
  • Who Should Start: Raheem Sterling (he's rested).
  • Will Actually Play: Raheem Sterling
CENTRAL MIDFIELD

As I have written previously, I am unofficial President, CEO and Lead Cheerleader of the Yaya Toure Is A Damn Boss fan club. I'm very glad he's healthy. I think we should keep him that way. I am certain in my opinion that he should not start. I'm equally certain that Pellegrini will put him out there. I hope he ends the game healthy.
  • Who Should Start: Aleix Serrano or some other guy.
  • Will Actually Play: Yaya Toure
CENTRAL MIDFIELD

Start one of the Brazilians and use the other in the second half.
  • Who Should Start: Fernando or Fernandinho
  • Will Actually Play: Fernandinho or Fernando
RIGHT MIDFIELD

I honestly can't imagine Pellegrini would play David Silva but if he does, I've got a whole paragraph for my next Five Thoughts colum. I'm only fairly certain we'll see Jesus Navas which makes me nervous; Silva and Toure should be be risked, period. Start Jesus Navas here. And I like Navas more than most. He's tireless, appears to be made entirely of cartilage which explains his fearless play, tracks back more than any winger we have (Sterling does, too but Navas is slightly better)... I mean, other than the fact he's not a great player but just a good one who at times plays great, I see no reason to slight a guy. He's getting the most out of his ability. My hat is off.
  • Who Should Start: Jesus Navas
  • Will Actually Play: Jesus Navas or Manu Garcia.

STRIKERS

I think we should play two strikers tomorrow and neither should be named Sergio Aguero; the injury risk is always great with Sergio and I'd look for any excuse not to play him. Being three road goals up at home is just such an excuse. City fans are clamoring for Kelechi Iheanacho. I've written before that with Sterling, De Bruyne and Iheanacho, City have gone from an older, somewhat fading side to a having a veritable youth brigade. Exciting stuff.

I also think Wilfried Bony should start (ducks). Get him into game shape and see what he can do in a game that is all but won from the opening whistle. There's just not a whole lot of risk to be had with Aguero on the bench; use the kid and use the guy who is struggling.
  • Who Should Start: Wilfried Bony and Kelechi Iheanacho
  • Will Actually Play: Wilfried Bony and Kelechi Iheanacho