Ferran Torres to replace Riyad Mahrez for Premier League clash - West Ham vs Manchester City Predicted XI (PL)
Off the back of a hard-fought victory against Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday night, Manchester City continue their league campaign on the road at the London Stadium to face a stern West Ham outfit.
Wednesday was a mixed bag for Pep Guardiola and his men. Similar positives and negatives arose from the ninety minutes, ranging from clunky build-up play, struggles in defensive transition to some very good individual play once the game opened up.
In this early kick off, Manchester City will most likely match up against another back five, a double pivot with a roaming front three on the break. Guardiola and his men have struggled against most sides with a competent attack for some time now, but the issues surrounding breaking down a compact back five have been also been a major problem for City, especially without Gabriel Jesus.
Injuries, match fitness and the compact schedule ahead of two Champions League fixtures, an away trip to Bramall Lane and a visit from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at the Etihad promises to test the squad to its fullest extent.
With that in mind, here's our predicted team for the clash this weekend...
Ederson. Again, no point of contention. Barring injury (touch wood he is available), the Brazilian keeper will start in goal for Manchester City.
After the experimental performance against Arsenal last weekend, there could be a chance of another lopsided back three deployed this weekend. Yet we do suspect a standard back four (if there is such a thing in a Pep Guardiola system) will be in play this weekend. Kyle Walker will start on the right of the back four. His speed as always will be critical in preventing the balls in behind to Fornals, Antonio or Lanzini.
In the heart of defence, Ruben Dias will continue his role as the commanding centre-back he is proving to be. Alongside him, we hope Nathan Aké will return to the starting line up after picking up a minor injury in midweek. Of course, Aymeric Laporte is thankfully back in training but there is no need to rush him back into the starting eleven with other key games on the horizon.
At left back, we suspect Joao Cancelo will keep his starting spot after Wednesday’s performance. His performance in mid-week was not inspiring by any means. His defending for the first goal was abject to say the least and his inability to try any incisive forward pass to the countless runs Sterling made in behind did become frustrating.
However, with Guardiola confirming Benjamin Mendy will be out this weekend and it feeling a bit bizarre to start Oleksandr Zinchenko against a side playing a back five, Cancelo appears to be the best fit to combat West Ham’s right win back Coufal and provide legitimate width on the left side - subsequently allowing Sterling to roam inward. He simply needs to take more risks going forward if he does start this game.
At the base of midfield, Rodri appears to be the main option given Fernandinho’s late injury in midweek. While it would be ideal for the Spaniard to be rested after starting every league game so far and featuring heavily on Wednesday night, his physicality at second balls and set pieces against West Ham's main threats such as Soucek will be invaluable to prevent any high-quality chances for the home side.
Along with the Spaniard, we do suspect Ilkay Gundogan will retain his position in the centre of the park. Bernardo Silva could well start in centre too after another solid outing, but after back to back ninety minutes and an upcoming away trip to Marseille in midweek, this could be the game to rest the Portuguese maestro.
Ahead of the double pivot, we would love and sincerely hope Phil Foden is given the responsibility to be chief creator. Kevin De Bruyne is fortunately back in training as well after an injury scare during the international break. Similarly, to Laporte though, there is no need to risk him and throw him straight back into the starting line-up. It would be logical to have them both on the bench and call upon the pair if needed.
Foden, however, played very well in his cameo appearance against Porto, delightfully playing Ferran Torres in for his fine finish. His tenacity and verticality will be critical in a game such as this to locate those pockets of space in behind Rice & Soucek and break down West Ham’s low block.
Onto the front three and we can see Ferran Torres replacing Riyad Mahrez for this game. As with Bernardo Silva, the Algerian has played the full ninety minutes in the past two games and should require a rest for the Champions League on Tuesday night. The Spanish winger looked spry and energetic when coming on in midweek and took his goal wonderfully, barring some abhorrent defending from Pepe. Nonetheless, we believe he should keep his spot and target the space in behind Masuaku and test the pace of Cresswell.
Sergio Agüero should keep his spot too, as our only fit number nine, and be given another hour or so as he closes in on full fitness. While the condition of the game will determine how long the Argentine stays on the field, it is imperative Agüero is worked back in slowly until his knee and his fitness is back to normal.
Finally, there is simply no way we can drop Raheem Sterling at this moment in time. The Englishman is crucial to every attack, with is his endeavour and work rate proving to be one of our greatest assets for some time now. The Blues and Sterling have performed exceptionally well at the London Stadium in recent years, most notably last season when the Englishman bagged a hat trick.
Pep Guardiola and the Manchester City supporters will hope the players can emulate those performances and gather all three points, in what promises to be a tough game on the road for the Blues.
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