Manchester City return to action this Saturday with a trip to the shores of England for a meeting with AFC Bournmemouth on the day's early kickoff.
The Cherries lost their two opening league matches and manager Eddie Howe was deeply disappointed with his team's performance on both games. But a comeback victory away from home against Birmingham boosted the Cherries' confidence ahead of their battle with the Blues.
City had to fight hard for a draw against Everton down to 10 men for the entire second half, and while the performance was very good the result was still not ideal regardless of the circumstances. Pep Guardiola and his men will hope to return to winning ways against an opponent they usually destroy.
The Blues scored 15 goals in 4 league games against Bournemouth, and they'll again be massive favorites this weekend. Let's now take a look at how both teams are likely to line up on Saturday.
This is the last game before a two-week international break, and starting in September City will basically play a game every three days, which means rotation of players and changes in formation. The Bournemouth match provides Pep with a final opportunity to use the 5-3-2 formation he has been testing since preseason, and even though that formation seems to not fit the players, Guardiola wants his players to be familiar with the system if the team needs to use it again during the season.
With the suspension of Kyle Walker for a ridiculous red card against Everton, the natural replacement at right wing-back is Danilo, who made a great impact off the bench on Monday and will probably get a start in his natural position. The Brazilian has been playing on the left since preseason, but his best position is on the right flank and we should see why if he starts against the Cherries.
At left wing-back, we could see Benjamin Mendy making his debut as a Blue. Pep Guardiola said on Friday that the Frenchman is available and will travel with the squad to Bournemouth, and while he isn't 100% fit to play Mendy can still get a start and about 60 minutes of action. If Mendy doesn't start, Leroy Sané will likely get the start in the position. The German struggled against Everton, but Bournemouth don't offer the same threat as the Toffees and Pep might get away with starting Sané at wing-back again.
Vincent Kompany, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi will form the back three with Fernandinho in front of them. David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne will be the creative forces in midfield looking to feed the strikers. The striking duo usually is Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus, but things could change thanks to Raheem Sterling's wonderful performance against Everton. Pep has mentioned multiple times Sterling deserves a start and that will probably happen this weekend. Who he will replace is a mystery.
Predicted XI: Éderson; Danilo, Kompany, Stones, Otamendi, Sané; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Agüero
Bitter and Blue XI (4-3-3): Éderson; Danilo, Kompany, Stones, Mendy; Bernardo, De Bruyne, Silva; Sterling, Agüero, G.Jesus
Eddie Howe made plenty of changes in the League Cup game in midweek, and some players have given him a selection headache ahead of Saturday's game. Marc Pugh was benched against Watford for Jordon Ibe, but he scored the winner in Birmingham and might return to the starting lineup.
As for the rest of the team, we have a good idea of what it'll be: new goalkeeper Asmir Begovic starts in goal; Adam Smith, Steve Cook, Nathan Aké and Charlie Daniels in the back four; Harry Arter and Andrew Surman in the center of midfield with Ryan Fraser on the right flank and either Ibe or Pugh on the left; up front, top scorer from last season Joshua King will play just in behind Benik Afobe, although Jermain Defoe is in contention to make his first league start for the Cherries.
Predicted XI: Begovic; Smith, Cook, Aké, Daniels; Fraser, Surman, Arter, Ibe; King; Afobe
Man City: Éderson; Danilo, Kompany, Otamendi, Mendy; Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva; Bernardo, G.Jesus, Sterling
Bournemouth: Begovic; Smith, Cook, Aké, Mings, Daniels; Gosling, Surman, Arter; Defoe, King