Aston Villa is such a dumpster fire. There are reports of locker room unrest, players willfully ignoring Remi Garde and then there's the fact they're letting in goals like a department store welcomes customers at Christmas. It boggles the mind, really, that Man City could lose this game; they're at home, they're coming off a humiliating defeat (historically, they usually come back strong from such things) and almost as impossible to think about losing to Villa is the thought that Man City could lose their fourth straight league match. It can't happen... right?
(Pauses to wipe sweat from brow)
Okay--my take on who starts tomorrow is below.
GOALKEEPER: Joe Hart. I honestly think that, barring injury, Willy Caballero has played his last game of the year but, damn, what a way to go out. It is impossible to believe Roberto Mancini would have used him for the Cup final. After that FA Cup freak show, Roberto would've put Caballero in the deepest recesses of his doghouse which underscores as much as anything the principal difference between our last two managers.
LEFT BACK: Aleksander Kolarov. I thought Gael Clichy was our best man on the pitch Wednesday which is kind of like being the best cook at McDonalds. I get the sense he's ready for a breather and Kolarov is certainly ready for a full match.
CENTER BACK: Nicolas Otamendi. Say hello to our second worst player from Wednesday night other than David Silva. It's getting more and more difficult to argue with the observations of writer Mike L. Goodman when he says he keeps seeing players showing up where Otamendi is supposed to be defending. That was the case against Liverpool on Wednesday. I'm tempted to put Mangala here because if not against Villa than who? But Pellegrini has a history of showing faith in players in who have bad games; he likes giving guys the opportunity for redemption and Otamendi is in need to be redeemed.
CENTER BACK: Vincent Kompany. Barring injury, he plays every minute of every game.
RIGT BACK: Pablo Zabaleta. Our only healthy choice with Sagna still out. Kompany and Zabaleta are the two guys I would be most eager to see continue at City in some capacity after their careers are over.
CENTRAL DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Fernando. I'm going with our three central mids but in different roles (wait for it). There's a risk of injury, particularly with Fernando who has been playing a ton of minutes but having him protect the front four should cut down on runs up the pitch. That and we get seven days rest after tomorrow.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: Yaya Toure. He'll be positioned just to the left of Fernando and if recent games are any indicator, he'll be option number one in the middle third of the pitch. Welcome back.
LEFT MIDFIELD: Raheem Sterling. For the life of me, I can't figure out why Pellegrini took him out. He was playing hard in spite of being on the receiving end of some very tough tackles. He was hustling and creating a few opportunities whereas David Silva was having his worst game in recent memory. Regardless, he came off at halftime so I think he's got plenty in the tank for tomorrow. Last time these teams met, it was clear Villa had no answer for him.
RIGHT MIDFIELD: Fernandinho. Meaning I see something similar to what worked so well against Kiev and against Liverpool in the Cup final. Another guy who came off relatively early Wednesday so there should be enough gas in the tank.
CENTRAL ATTACKING MIDFIELD: David Silva. It never ceases to amaze me that Silva can have horrific games and escape criticism whereas Yaya Toure will go to his grave being the most heavily criticized and under-appreciated star we've ever had. Think of the last time Silva was one of our two best players on the pitch. You can't. He's long overdue for a good game.
STRIKER: Sergio Aguero. He turns 28 on the second day of June and that means we're entering the second half of his career. Goes by fast, doesn't it? By far the biggest tragedy of this season, for me at least, was yet another injury for the best talent to ever don the shirt. There were very, very few people who didn't have Aguero as their player of the year before the season. The thought has crossed my mind that he could still be for these last eleven games but I haven't seen it yet.