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Southampton vs Manchester City, 2016 Premier League: Projected Lineups

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Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manchester City's latest stop on the road to a top-three finish in the Premier League is at St. Mary's Stadium on Sunday, in what promises to be a very difficult away game against European hopefuls Southampton.

The Citizens are very close to securing a Champions League spot for next season with only three fixtures to go, however finishing in third above Arsenal is important, not only to maintain Arsenal's hilarious streak of fourth-place finishes, but also to guarantee an automatic place in the group stage of the upcoming European Cup.

Speaking of the Champions League, the semifinal second leg against Real Madrid is just a few days away. Los Blancos did not confirm their status as favorites in the first game, which gives the Sky Blues a real chance of shocking the world at Santiago Bernabéu and knocking out Madrid and booking a place in the Milan Final.

The importance and the real possibility of qualification on Tuesday will have serious implication on Manuel Pellegrini's selection for Sunday's match. He already hinted at a big rotation of the starting lineup in his latest press conference, and we can expect the most important starters not to play against Saints.

Vincent Kompany, Fernando, Kevin De Bruyne, Jesus Navas and Sergio Agüero are just too important to risk at St. Mary's, so there's a big chance they won't feature. Samir Nasri is back from injury, and is likely to get a start thanks to the rotation. Kelechi Iheanacho hopes to build on his amazing performance last weekend with another start, and Wilfried Bony may start ahead of a rested Agüero.

With rotations and Real Madrid in mind, this is likely to be City's lineup for Sunday:

Hart

Zabaleta - Otamendi - Mangala - Kolarov

Sterling - Fernandinho - Delph - Nasri

Iheanacho - Bony

Very different from usual, but good enough to beat Saints and arrive healthy and rested in Madrid. Squad depth is real, and this squad does have it. Pellegrini has to use it ahead of the most important game in City's history.