At long last the new Premier League season is here. After a relatively smooth pre-season which saw City score ten goals in four games, earn two clean sheets and win three of their four friendly games with the only defeat coming against Manchester United in City’s International Champions Cup opener, understandably optimism is high amongst supporters ahead of what has all the hallmarks of being a successful campaign. Yet as City know all too well and Pep Guardiola has quickly learned, games against lower league opposition can’t simply be taken for granted. The Blues will hope to bring their impressive pre-season form into the new season in what on paper could be a potential banana skin for Guardiola’s men.
City fans may have been hoping to see the former Monaco pairing of Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy make their Premier League debuts for the club but Mendy is still not fully fit. He and long-term absentee Ilkay Gündoğan are close to returns, Pep revealed on Friday. Bernardo Silva, however, appears to be regaining match fitness and could make his City debut from the bench. Mendy’s absence paves the way for the versatile Danilo to slot in on the left side of defence with Walker also ready to make his debut for City in the Premier League.
Experimenting with a back three or five (depending on how you look at it) has been common throughout pre-season and with a fully fit trio of Stones, Kompany and Otamendi, playing with three central defenders is a possibility. Saying that, in thinking back to when City looked most comfortable towards the end of last season, Guardiola often opted for a traditional back four so I would not be suprised to see Kompany partner either one of the other two, perhaps Stones, against Brighton.
Across the midfield, although it was Yaya Touré who anchored City’s midfield three in last week’s 3-0 victory over West Ham United, Fernandinho is an option replace the Ivorian with a new look David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne playing further ahead in much more attacking roles. With greater space for creativity, it’s just a matter of who will start for City up front with options aplenty.
In what could be a traditional forward pairing or a more likely front three with Sané and Sterling featuring, the age old question of who or whether both Agüero and Jesus will start against Brighton. Both have looked good throughout pre-season and even linked well during City’s victory last week, but at present predicting City’s strike force is anybody’s guess – something that should become much clearer during the season.
It would be highly unlikely to see fringe players even make the bench for this weekend’s game with youngsters Brahim and Phil Foden perhaps more likely to be in reserve than the likes of Wilfried Bony, Fabian Delph or Samir Nasri whose fitness will be protected ahead of potential moves away this window.