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How An Injury-Ravaged Manchester City Could Line Up Against United On Thursday

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City celebrates after Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (R/obscure) scored Manchester City's third goal during the Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary's Stadium on April 15, 2017 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Manchester City welcome local rivals United to the Etihad this week, in a match that will have a massive bearing on both sides’ hopes of securing a place in the Premier League top four.

Although many had predicted way back in August that this match would be something of a title decider, Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho have instead found themselves battling with Liverpool and Arsenal to nail down a place in next season’s Champions League.

However, the waters for this Thursday’s clash have been muddied somewhat, as both City and United have a number of injury problems leading up to the tie.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City shows appreciation to the fans after the Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary's Stadium on April 15, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Man City boss Pep Guardiola is desperately clinging to the top four as a silver lining to what has been a deeply subpar first season at the Etihad. As it stands, the Spaniard finds himself on course to deliver a worse overall end product than Manuel Pellegrini’s final season at the club despite spending over £150m in the summer, even accounting for the greater points total in the league.

A 2-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal on Sunday was the latest low point, made all the worse by injuries to Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero.

With that in mind, and given the injury losses already incurred, what are the options available to Guardiola and Man City this Thursday?

 

Goalkeeper: Claudio Bravo

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18:  Claudio Bravo of Manchester City during the The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Huddersfield Town and Manchester City at John Smith's Stadium on February 18, 2017 in Huddersfield, England.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Bravo has wrested back control of the number one shirt having been dropped for Willy Caballero earlier in the campaign. Doubts about the ex-Barcelona stopper’s long-term future remain, but it seems likely that Bravo will continue as first-choice until the end of the season.

Defence: Jesus Navas, Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi, Gael Clichy

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Vincent Kompany of Manchester City shows appreciation to the fans after the Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary's Stadium on April 15, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Man City’s defence hasn’t been as gutted as their opponents this week, but that does not mean that they are at full strength either. Right-back Bacary Sagna is almost certain to miss out, while John Stones is also expected to be absent having missed the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.

Vincent Kompany’s return has come at just the right time for Guardiola, however, as otherwise, it seems almost certain that Aleksandar Kolarov would have been partnering Nicolas Otamendi in defence. The Serbian is likely to be on the bench now, with Gael Clichy keeping his place at left-back. Jesus Navas, meanwhile, seems to have found a spot in Guardiola’s starting eleven at right-back ahead of Pablo Zabaleta.

Midfield: Fernando, Fabian Delph, Yaya Toure

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 08:   Manchester City player Yaya Toure reacts during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Hull City at Etihad Stadium on April 8, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Ilkay Gundogan’s prolonged absence has robbed Guardiola of the midfield stability that he so desperately needed this season, but it has probably saved Yaya Toure’s Man City career. The Ivorian has been enjoying a run in the team in the second half of this season and is almost certain to start again on Thursday.

One man who isn’t guaranteed to start, however, is Fernandinho. The Brazilian international picked up an injury on Sunday (as did David Silva, ruling him out too) and if he cannot make it, the door may be opened for compatriot Fernando. Silva’s absence could also mean a rare start for Fabian Delph in the centre of midfield, depending on the manager’s thought process regarding his forwards.

Forwards: Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sané, Kevin De Bruyne

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 23:  Raheem Sterling of Manchester City holds off Nacho Monreal of Arsenal during the Emirates FA Cup Semi-Final match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on April 23, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images,)

In many respects, Sergio Aguero holds the key here to Guardiola’s lineup. Man City’s top scorer limped off in extra time on Sunday, but if he recovers sufficiently in time then expect him to start.

If he doesn’t, however, Pep has a choice. Does he go like-for-like and throw in Kelechi Iheanacho, or does he push Kevin De Bruyne into an advanced false nine role? The Belgian may yet be needed in midfield but history suggests that he may find himself up front.

Man City

Man City should know the extent of the injuries to the above players later this week, but it could be a long night for Guardiola if some of their biggest players are absent.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.