Manchester City advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League thanks to a strong showing at home within their group. Home victories over Barcelona and Borussia Mönchengladbach and a draw against Celtic helped confirm City’s place in the knockout rounds. Finishing second in their group means City were drawn against a team who won their group in the Round of 16, and it turned out to be the powerful French side AS Monaco.
Featuring a deadly attack has been the key to Monaco’s excellent start to the season and Pep Guardiola will need to choose his defensive players carefully. Aleksandar Kolarov seems fine after exiting the FA Cup match at the weekend with a minor knock, though captain Vincent Kompany appears to be dealing with yet another issue.
For City’s attack Pep will have a lot of decisions to make. Chief among them is, “does Sergio Agüero fit in Guardiola’s vision?” It’s easy to see Agüero is still one of the best strikers in the world, but his form has been poor recently and in a knockout game over two legs Pep might want someone he’s more comfortable with leading the line.
Below is the predicted lineup I believe Pep will choose against Monaco. The 4-3-3 should continue as it allows City’s best players higher up the field.
Goalkeeper: Willy Caballero
Apparent backup keeper Claudio Bravo played well against Huddersfield, but Pep would be wise to go with the more consistent of the two as of late. Caballero has played in plenty of big games for City so his confidence or nerves shouldn't be an issue.
Defense: Bacary Sagna, John Stones, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gaël Clichy
For the defense Pep should really go with four natural defenders. As good as others have looked at full-back, now is the time for Pep to use his best and fastest defenders, especially out wide. Sagna and Clichy can provide defensive support, even if both lack the offensive talents of other options. Stones and Kolarov seem like Pep’s preferred options in the center of the defense.
Midfield: Fernandinho, Yaya Touré, David Silva
In the middle of the park should be Fernandinho, Touré and Silva. The Spaniard will obviously be pushed the furthest forward and his form has been blistering as of late. Touré and Fernandinho can provide extra defensive help in addition to linking defense and attack. Dinho allows Yaya to push further if he sees an opening, and hopefully the pair can match Monaco’s excellent midfield players.
Forwards: Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sané
I’m not sure if Guardiola will go with this front three, but it’s the one he needs at the moment. Agüero’s form is lying at the bottom of the ocean at the moment and this game means a lot for City. De Bruyne has proven he can slot into that role up front and do an admirable job, plus he offers a tenacity in the pressing game. Out wide Sterling and Sané have been some of City’s best players lately and should continue their very excellent play.
So that’s our predicted lineup. As for a score prediction, a nice 2-1 home win for City seems like a possible result. Keeping Monaco off the scoresheet would be a huge accomplishment but seems unlikely. Goals from Sané and De Bruyne see City take a lead into the away leg.