Pep Guardiola and Manchester City will have their hands full when they face AS Monaco in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg.
City will have the luxury of a 5-3 first leg lead heading into the game in Monaco, but the three away goals scored by the French side in the first leg should be of some concern. While City scored five goals, that was with an electric Etihad Stadium behind the team, now they must look for goals away from home against the best attack in Europe this season.
Predicting the starting lineup for City has gotten a bit easier as injuries have forced certain changes to the squad. Pep seems set on using the 4-3-3/4-1-4-1 so the formation is rarely in doubt, and the injuries to Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus mean Pep’s options in midfield and the front three are limited to a few key stars.
The defense has played better, but the names in the backline have been switched more often to fit the needs of the team against each opponent. Monaco have speed out wide and usually play with two forwards, so a faster defense might be what Guardiola goes with.
Below are the eleven players we believe Pep will select in his starting lineup against Monaco.
Goalkeeper: Willy Caballero
Claudio Bravo is officially the FA Cup goalkeeper and with City in the semifinals, the Chilean will continue to get minutes in that competition. When it comes to the Champions League, Caballero is clearly the better choice, and his penalty save in the first leg was key to City's big win.
Defense: Bacary Sagna, John Stones, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gaël Clichy
Clichy and Sagna get the start as full-backs to deal with Monaco’s width. They are City’s best defensive full-backs and also the fastest of the bunch. Stones is an obvious choice as the young Englishman is in great form and unlikely to be dropped. The last remaining spot is between Nicolas Otamendi and Kolarov. I’ve gone with Kolarov due to his ability as a passer and his positional discipline.
Midfield: Yaya Touré, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne
Leaving out Fernandinho seems harsh, but he would be the first man off the bench if City need to protect a lead late on. Touré needs to start due to his ability to link defense and attack. Silva and De Bruyne are tremendous together, and their abilities will be key for City to progress.
Forwards: Raheem Sterling, Sergio Agüero, Leroy Sané
When Gabriel Jesus comes back it might be harder to predict who starts up front, but right now nobody is challenging this trio. Sterling and Sané seem to be figuring things out together in incredible style, and Agüero remains one of the best strikers in the world. Hopefully all three are ready for a tough test at the Principality.