When it’s all working so well, don’t change it. Even the fan of rotations Pep Guardiola will agree with that, so expect pretty much the same team that started in the wins against Stoke City and Chelsea. The only possible change is Sergio Agüero in place of Raheem Sterling, but Sterling is in such incredible form that it makes sense to keep him in the starting lineup and have Agüero come off the bench, which isn’t really a bad option to have if you’re a coach looking to change a tough game.
Even though we’ll see the same team from the Stoke game, the game itself will be very, very different. Napoli will look to keep possession as well and will constantly press City high up the pitch looking to force mistakes, so the entire team has to be ready to defend a lot more than they did in the last few matches.
The midfield especially will really have a tough job. Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva will need to control the flow of the game and look to stop Jorginho, Allan and Marek Hamsik from finding the attackers. It’ll be difficult for them, so expect Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva to play a big part in this game as substitutes. This is a game for 14 players, not just the starting XI.
Predicted XI: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Delph; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Jesus, Sané
The Napoli president is looking at the Italian league as a priority over the Champions League and has suggested that Maurizio Sarri should make a lot of changes to his team at the Etihad to save his best players for next weekend’s giant Serie A match against Inter Milan. The Napoli president talks a lot, though, so don’t expect Sarri to listen to him.
It makes no sense for Napoli to rest any big players in such a huge game, so expect all of the superstars to be in action. That includes José Callejón, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne up top. We’ve already discussed the midfield earlier, and the full-backs (Elseid Hysaj and Faouzi Ghoulam) are also a big part of the Napoli system.
If all the big players start, which is very likely, expect a really, really, really tough game for City. If the changes do happen, we might miss out on what could be a Champions League classic.
Predicted XI: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejón, Mertens, Insigne
Man City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Delph; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Jesus, Sané
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Zielinski, Diawara, Hamsik; Callejón, Mertens, Insigne