Kicking off the weekend of FA Cup action is Manchester City traveling to Middlesbrough in what could be another frustrating encounter for the Sky Blues. After playing out a dull 0-0 draw midweek against Stoke City, supporters really want to see the high-flying, high-scoring City come back against Boro.
Boro might make it things difficult for City, though. Despite their inability to score, Middlesbrough have been very good defensively this season and can set up to stifle any attack City try to build during the entire 90 minutes. As we saw against Stoke, making a correct lineup selection could be the key in breaking down a stingy defense.
David Silva’s return to the lineup is most definitely a necessity. Also, further forward, Jesús Navas most certainly gave the coaching staff doubts as to whether he should ever play for City again after his horrible game against Stoke.
Below are the eleven players I believe Pep Guardiola will select in his starting lineup against Boro. The 4-3-3 seems to be the only formation City have used the last couple of months so we’ll be sticking with it here.
Goalkeeper: Claudio Bravo
The domestic cup competitions have become the backup keeper competitions for City. Bravo hasn't been getting starts in the Premier League or Champions League lately, so expect the Chilean to be given the nod here.
Defense: Bacary Sagna, John Stones, Vincent Kompany, Aleksandar Kolarov
The defense is most certainly City’s weakest point, and because of that, choosing which defenders Pep will go with is really difficult. Kolarov could move to left-back to give Gaël Clichy a rest. In the middle, Stones seems a lock for important games and supporters might get to see the return of Captain Kompany, who has been training with the squad for a few days now. On the right side, it’s literally a toss-up with a slight edge to Sagna over Pablo Zabaleta, so that’s who we’ll select.
Midfield: Yaya Touré, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne
Leaving out Fernandinho will be difficult for Pep, but it’s a must if Yaya Touré starts. Silva and De Bruyne help create a dynamic, deadly front five for City and there’s only one spot behind them, and for this game that spot should probably go to Yaya Touré. Boro are less likely to press and take the game to City, and Fernandinho would be better to use against more attacking opposition.
Forwards: Raheem Sterling, Sergio Agüero, Leroy Sané
With the fixture list congested at this point in the campaign and Sterling being given a rest midweek, it’s safe to say Agüero and Sané are both candidates to be rested in this one, and Iheanacho and Nolito would be both be competent replacements. However, City have high aspirations in this competition and putting out their best eleven will show that they are coming to the Riverside to win.