After doing the double in the League Cup and Premier League against Swansea City last week, Manchester City face a UEFA Champions League match against Celtic FC on Wednesday night. Manager Pep Guardiola has a real selection headache for this one. With a first-vs-second matchup against Tottenham in the Premier League this weekend, there might be considerable changes to one of these lineups.
Kevin De Bruyne has also been ruled out for at least four weeks with injury, leaving a Belgium-sized hole in the advanced midfield role. Against Swansea Pep deployed the squad in a modified 4-2-3-1 with Sterling maintaining the width, with De Bruyne and David Silva interchanging in the middle and out wide. The loss of De Bruyne is problematic but might make the midfield selection easier.
The good news is Nolito is available for selection again as his red card suspension only applies to domestic competitions. With his availability at the weekend lacking, expect the Spaniard to feature midweek. Below are the eleven players I believe Pep will select to start the midweek match against Celtic:
Goalkeeper: Claudio Bravo
Bravo will most likely be picked in Champions League and Premier League matches, while Caballero should feature in League Cup and FA Cup games
Defense: Pablo Zabaleta, John Stones, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy
Zabaleta and Sagna are set to split time at the RB spot. With their age and exertions/injuries last season, this makes sense. Stones and Kolarov made a good center-back pair in the season opener, and with Tottenham this weekend, someone will get a break, and I expect that to be Otamendi. Clichy fills in at LB if Kolarov plays more centrally.
Midfield: Fernando, Fernandinho, David Silva, Nolito, Raheem Sterling
Pep values squad rotation heavily. Many see Celtic as the weakest team in this Champions League group, but they aren't to be overlooked. With a big weekend match and Gundogan still returning from injury I expect Silva and Fernandinho to partner higher up the pitch and Fernando to provide the cover behind them. Out wide Sterling and Nolito play as Sterling is undroppable and Nolito gets to play an European game.
Forward: Sergio Agüero
Aguero is still City’s main man. Despite the rise of Kelechi Iheanacho expect the Argentine striker to start the game, and perhaps get a rest if City can establish a comfortable lead.
Predicted Formation: 4-1-4-1
Expect the Cityzens to dispatch Celtic with ease. After a rough showing in back-to-back games against Swansea, Pep is sure to drill the team hard this week. There can be no slip-ups in such a tough group, especially with two straight games against Barcelona upcoming. My prediction is a 4-0 City victory with Agüero adding two more to his goal tally, as well as goals from Sterling and Nolito.