Manchester City’s silverware search will continue on Saturday when Pep Guardiola’s side head to Wembley for a third successive FA Cup semi-final.
An astounding second-half in Germany on Wednesday saw City qualify for the final four of the Champions League and set-up a semi-final tie against Paris Saint Germain - Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel’s former club.
Fellow Champions League semi-finalists Chelsea are City’s opponents at Wembley this weekend with Thomas Tuchel looking to secure his first piece of silverware as Chelsea manager, having replaced Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge in late January.
The Blues may be returning to Wembley with 2000 supporters next Sunday in the Carabao Cup final but many will be hoping the Blues will have another Wembley final secured before then, with Leicester or Southampton awaiting the winners of this semi-final.
Pep Guardiola came under heavy criticism for making seven changes in last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Leeds at the Etihad, but one can expect a number of personal changes again this week as City hope to continue their quadruple quest.
Here is how we expect Pep Guardiola to set-up in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final versus Chelsea...
Zack Steffen has had a fine debut season at City with 10 appearances and 10 victories thus far. The US international has featured in all of City’s past four FA Cup fixtures and one would expect him to continue this run by starting between the sticks in the semi-final on Saturday.
Ruben Dias and Nathan Aké have both partnered John Stones at centre-back in the last seven days. But expect Ruben Dias to be partnered alongside Aymeric Laporte this weekend, as City look to restrict a free-flowing Chelsea attack which has scored 50 goals in the league so far this season. Like Steffen, Laporte has featured throughout City’s FA Cup campaign with starts against Cheltenham, Swansea and Everton.
Pep Guardiola chose to play Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back in Germany but significant improvements and two goals in recent weeks means Benjamin Mendy is worthy of making his 70th City appearance this weekend. On the opposite side, despite a recent dip in form, Joao Cancelo will start over Kyle Walker; with the Portuguese full-backs pace and inverted midfield role likely important if City are to get in-behind Chelsea’s stringent defensive set-up.
The form of 35 year-old and potentially outgoing Fernandinho is little short of baffling and one would expect Pep Guardiola to hand the City veteran his 300th start for the club at Wembley this weekend.
Despite Chelsea being the first of six games in 16 days and a League Cup final looming, one would suspect Guardiola to not utilise the incredibly rewarding false-nine formation and neither make any drastic changes to the midfield. Bernardo Silva will therefore be the player axed with Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne likely to start in-front of Fernandinho in the midfield three. Both midfielders have been stand-out performers for City this season and proved pivotal once again in the victory over Dortmund in midweek.
Given Sergio Agüero’s continued injury problems, Gabriel Jesus, who scored in the opening minutes of City’s semi-final versus Brighton in 2019 will no doubt lead the line for City on Saturday evening.
The biggest dilemma facing Pep Guardiola is who to start either side of Jesus given the flailing form of Raheem Sterling and the outstanding recent showings from Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez. One would consider Phil Foden undroppable currently and therefore one would suspect he starts on Saturday.
Meanwhile, despite his performance and penalty against Dortmund, one would think Guardiola may opt to start Raheem Sterling over the Algerian on the opposite side.
Substitutes: Ederson, Kyle Walker, Eric Garcia, John Stones, Nathan Aké, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Ferran Torres
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