Manchester City - Sporting Match Preview
Manchester City face Sporting in the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie fresh off of a decisive Derby victory against Manchester United
Following a decisive 5-0 victory in the first leg, Pep Guardiola will likely be using the match to rest key players. City will need their top performers in peak condition with Liverpool applying consistent pressure in the Premier League.
The Anfield club have not dropped points in their last seven matches in the League. Jurgen Klopp’s men appear determined to recreate the 2018-19 title race that came down to the final day of the season. This time however, they will be hoping that a dramatic title race will culminate with themselves lifting the Premier League Trophy rather than City.
Ederson is likely to keep his place in goal. However, it isn’t impossible that Guardiola opts to give Zack Steffen a run out.
In defense, Kyle Walker is ineligible for the match due to his red card in the final match of the group stage. With the 5-0 lead from the first leg looking unassailable, expect Guardiola to rotate Nathan Ake and Oleksandr Zinchenko back into the team. Both players are in need of minutes, and all three of John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, and Joao Cancelo could use a rest.
In midfield, it’d be a surprise to see any of Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, or Rodri. The midfield trio have been key to City’s success as of late. It would make sense if Guardiola rested them to keep them fresh for the Premier League game against Crystal Palace on Monday.
Look for Iliad Gundogan to get a start. The German has found himself out of the first 11 in recent weeks through no fault of his own. Rather, it’s been the impeccable form of De Bruyne and Bernardo that has frozen him out.
This match may also provide Guardiola the opportunity to experiment with Jack Grealish in midfield. City’s record signing has almost exclusively been utilized as a forward so far this season. While, Fernandhino is likely to anchor the midfield if Rodri is rested.
Up front Guardiola has the option to potentially play the likes of Cole Palmer and James Mcatee. Liam Delap could also make an appearance. The Catalan manager has proven to be hesitant to play youth team players over senior players in the past. It’s more likely that one or both is brought for a second half cameo.
Other than the youth academy graduates, Guardiola could deploy any of Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus, or the previously mentioned Jack Grealish up front.