After a bizarre season of VAR nonsense and a global pandemic, we finally know Manchester City will not be winning their third Premier League title in a row.
Pep Guardiola’s side have not been the juggernaut they were over the past two seasons, leaving them out of reach of Jurgen Klopp’s irrepressible Liverpool.
On Thursday, they will begrudgingly give their successors a guard of honour when they walk out onto the pitch at the Etihad Stadium.
With the title out of reach and a drop out of the Champions League places unlikely, the Citizens are left with little to play for in the league. Coupled with the fact that they are still in the FA Cup following a 2-0 win over Newcastle and still have ambitions of winning the Champions League, it would make sense for Guardiola to field a weakened side.
However, Guardiola is not the type of manager to let his side’s standards drop, and City’s exceptional squad depth gives them plenty of options.
Here is how they could line up when they face the newly crowned champions.
Ederson (GK) – After being rested for the FA Cup fixture at Newcastle, the Brazilian is likely to return to the starting lineup. The former Benfica man is joint third in the race for the Golden Glove with 11 clean sheets – just one behind Thursday’s opponent Alisson.
Joao Cancelo (RB) – The Portuguese full back has often been Guardiola’s second choice this season, having started just nine Premier League games. The 26 year-old could be given the nod this time around, however, having been rested in the previous two games.
Nicolas Otamendi (CB) – With Fernandinho still suspended following his red card at Chelsea, Otamendi should start from the off. The Argentine was named in 2017/18’s PFA Team of the Year but hasn’t hit those heights in the following campaigns.
Aymeric Laporte (CB) – Commonly viewed as the best defender at the club, Laporte’s absence has been noticeable. City have conceded 33 goals this season so far – ten more than they did in the entirety of 18/19. There is no doubt that the injury Laporte sustained against Brighton in August has contributed to this statistic.
Oleksandr Zinchenko (LB) – Rounding off the back line is versatile Ukrainian Zinchenko. Guardiola has favoured Benjamin Mendy in the previous two games, but following the Frenchman’s error against Chelsea, Zinchenko may be picked to start this time around.
Rodri (CM) – The Spain international is expected to return to the starting XI after being rested on Sunday. Rodri has completed the second highest number of passes this season, beaten only by Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.
Kevin De Bruyne (CM) – Despite City’s underwhelming league performance, De Bruyne has been nothing short of exceptional all season. The Belgian has had the best goalscoring season of his career, as well as sitting top of the assist charts with an incredible 16. Not bad for a Chelsea reject.
Phil Foden (CM) – The youngster has made an impressive return to football following the coronavirus pandemic, registering a goal or an assist in every appearance since the restart. This form could see him given a start against Liverpool after being benched in each of City’s last two games.
Bernardo Silva (RW) – With Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez the only City player to start every game since the restart, it is about time that he is rested. Expect City’s 18/19 POTY winner – Bernardo Silva – to take his place.
Gabriel Jesus (ST) – Following Sergio Aguero’s injury in the 5-0 thumping of Burnley, Guardiola is left with only one natural striker. The Brazilian has an impressive minutes-per-goal ratio in the league this season, netting on average once every 150 minutes – a figure only bettered by Sergio Aguero, Danny Ings, Jamie Vardy, and Mohamed Salah.
Raheem Sterling (LW) – Since his move from Liverpool to City in 2015, Sterling is still yet to register a league goal against his former side. The Englishman will be hoping to pick up where he left off following his 20-yard strike against Newcastle last time out.