Manchester City take on Monaco in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Tuesday night, hopeful of building a lead to take into next week’s second leg.
Here’s the team Pep Guardiola could pick for the game.
After spending some time out of the side, Pep’s first choice keeper seems likely to make his return here. After a period of questionable form, the Chilean was called upon at the weekend to face Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup, where he able kept the Terriers out when called upon.
The concern here will be much the same as it has been all season, and that is the opposition targeting City’s goalkeeper, and limiting his distribution.
The question marks surrounding Manchester City’s defence will be even more amplified against Monaco. The current leaders of Ligue 1 have been astonishing in front of goal this season, scoring 76 goals in just 26 games. Monaco’s goals have been from multiple sources too, so this won’t simply be a case of marking strikers Radamel Falcao and Valere Germain, when Monaco’s threat comes from all over the pitch.
Talismanic captain Vincent Kompany looks set to miss this match, having picked up a training injury before City’s FA Cup fixture last weekend, with no fixed return date in place as of yet. This means that Pep will likely have to field a back four, with Stones partnering Otamendi, who will deputise for Kompany.
Aleksandr Kolarov looks set to return after shaking off a knock, with Gael Clichy still injured, whilst Pablo Zabaleta keeps his place at right back, to provide work ethic, communication, and organisation to a back line that sometimes look like a group of strangers.
At the beginning of the season, you’d have been given long odds if you’d predicted Yaya Toure to be a functional part of Pep’s midfield at the point in the campaign. Yet the Ivorian seems to have turned things around, deputising for the injured Ilkay Gundogan, who’s out for the rest of the season.
Toure should line up next to Fernandinho, who has the discipline to allow Yaya to venture forwards and get involved in attacks. However, Toure will need to be ready to keep the shape in the deeper parts of midfield, to combat the hard running of Monaco’s Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko.
The free-flowing, interchangeable nature of City’s three attacking midfielders has arguably been the highlight of their season so far. David Silva, and particularly Raheem Sterling, have looked completely revitalised under Pep’s tutelage, taking their place alongside the consistently outstanding Kevin De Bruyne.
Sterling’s pace will be critical against Monaco, whose centre backs aren’t the quickest, and provided Sterling can beat them, will create space for the rest of the attack to exploit.
With Brazilian prodigy Gabriel Jesus now sidelined until at least mid-April with a broken metatarsal, Guardiola will now have to make do(!) with Sergio Aguero leading the line for the Citizens.
Unsurprisingly, the Argentine striker is City’s top scorer in the Champions League this season, but his form appears to have dipped somewhat lately, after speculation about his future emerged, following the blistering start made by Gabriel Jesus.
Aguero has always come good for City in key matches though, and having found the net in the Citizen’s last league match against Bournemouth, he will look to fully showcase his abilities against the Ligue 1 leaders.