Manchester City travel to Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon without their manager, Pep Guardiola.
The Catalan coach is recovering from emergency surgery on his back and will not be back in the technical area until after September’s international break. In Guardiola’s place will be his assistant coach Juanma Lillo.
Lillo was the last manager Guardiola ever played for, linking up in Mexico with Dorados Sinaloa, and left his post in charge of Al Sadd to return to City’s bench in July.
“We are quite similar in how we see football and how we understand the game,” Guardiola said of his zealous number two. “He is a friend.”
Here’s how Lillo may send City out in Guardiola’s absence – although, the Catalan will surely have some input even from his recovery bed.
GK: Ederson – Sheffield United are the only English club Ederson has faced more than twice without ever conceding a goal against.
RB: Kyle Walker – Always a fixture of great importance for the Sheffield-born defender that first joined the Blades’ youth academy in 1997 – the same year his City teammate Ruben Dias was born.
CB: Manuel Akanji – The latest defender to wander into the middle of the pitch for City, Akanji scarcely put a foot wrong against Newcastle United last weekend.
CB: Ruben Dias – The talismanic centre-back is part of the only Premier League defence yet to concede a goal this season.
LB: Josko Gvardiol – Despite RB Leipzig’s fervent demands, City did not make Gvardiol the most expensive defender of all time this summer. Harry Maguire, incredibly, still holds that crown.
CM: Rodri – The ever-present midfield pivot is actively asking for less game time but City can hardly afford to take to the pitch without him.
CM: Bernardo Silva – Resisted the riches of the Saudi Pro League to sign a three-year deal with City on Wednesday.
AM: Julian Alvarez – The match-winner against Newcastle was honed into a World Cup winner by his first coach Rafael Varas, who spent his nights working as a delivery driver.
RW: Phil Foden – Against the Magpies, Foden created a career-high seven chances from open play as he was allowed to drift centrally. “It’s a position I can hopefully move into in the future,” Foden said post-game, “or maybe this season.”
ST: Erling Haaland – Did you know that Haaland’s dad Alf-Inge also played for City? Almost certainly. But what often gets overlooked is that his mother Gry Marita Braut was a Norwegian champion in the heptathlon.
LW: Jack Grealish – The former British record transfer has played against Sheffield United in League One, the Championship, the Premier League and the FA Cup.
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