The matches keep coming in December, and Pep Guardiola must be looking to rotate his side against Swansea so he can have his strongest possible team for Saturday’s huge game against Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad.
One confirmed absence is Vincent Kompany, who is once again dealing with a muscle injury and will once again miss some time. Without the Kaptain and the inexperienced Tosin Adarabioyo being carefully handled by Pep, the only center-back pairing that makes sense is Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala, both of whom played exceptional defensive (and offensive!) football at Old Trafford.
Kyle Walker was rested against Shakhtar Donetsk and should be ready for three matches on the same week, so he starts at right-back. Fabian Delph was dealing with an illness before the Manchester United game and might get a rest here; if that happens, then Danilo Luiz comes in at left-back.
The midfield and attack might be the area with the most rotation and tactical change. David Silva played through injury against United and will probably be rested here, and with Fernandinho just one booking away from a one-game suspension Pep might think twice about starting two of his most important players against a team fighting relegation. It seems natural that Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva start in place of Dinho and David, and that’s where the tactical change comes.
Guardiola said after the game against West Ham United that he will play Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus together when facing teams that will defend very deep for 90 minutes. Given Swansea’s situation and Paul Clement’s natural defensive tendencies as a coach, it’s very likely that the Swans park the bus at home and Pep doesn’t need to play a midfield three as usual.
If that happens, Pep will use Jesus and Agüero together to occupy the center-backs and open more space for other attackers. With Bernardo Silva on the right and Leroy Sané (or Raheem Sterling) on the left, Pep would have his two strikers inside the box and a lot more room for De Bruyne and Gundogan to operate in the middle of the park.
Agüero didn’t play at Old Trafford, so he’ll no doubt start here. If Jesus does start as well, Guardiola will hope his team can kill the game early so Gabriel (and De Bruyne) can get a rest in the second half.
Predicted XI: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Mangala, Danilo; Bernardo, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Sané; Jesus, Agüero
Bitter and Blue XI (as chosen by you!)
Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Mangala, Danilo; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Gundogan; Sterling, Agüero, Sané
As we discussed above, the Swans are likely to park the bus and have a plan based on absorbing pressure and getting a goal via set pieces or counter attacks. Paul Clement likes these types of games, and he’ll no doubt take pride in stopping the unstoppable Manchester City attack.
But which team does he pick? Given Swansea City were in horrible form until the weekend, when they won 1-0 over West Bromwich Albion with a late goal from former Blue Wilfried Bony, it makes a lot of sense to go with the same side that played on Saturday. Clement has played a back five a few times this season, though, so he might revert back to that defensive strategy if he REALLY wants to park the bus.
Predicted XI: Fabianski; Naughton, Fernández, Mawson, Olsson; Mesa; Ayew, Fer, Ki, Routledge; Bony