Manchester City travels to Romania this Tuesday. No, not to celebrate Pep’s first win in the Premier League but to face Steaua Bucharest in the first leg of the Champions League qualifier. A match which Pep has touted as ‘the most important of match of their season’. Manchester City were topsy-turvy throughout last year’s campaign and although the team flew off the blocks with 6 consecutive wins they lost all the momentum and chalked up pretty embarrassing statistics through the course of the season thereby finishing at the 4th spot which subsequently resulted in the midweek trip to Romania this season.
Pep Guardiola started off with a win but there are numerous issues to deal with in the squad. The way he wants the team to play is completely new and the transformation will not be an overnight occurrence. The team has to work harder with each other and play as many matches as they can to be in sync with the coach. On top of that, there are issues of high-profile omissions and the matter of clarifying to the press each and every day about the thought-process behind his selections. City had a half-baked pre-season and came into the opening day still short on match fitness and injuries to key components of the team.
The match against Steaua Bucharest will be a tricky affair as the Romanian side are on an impressive run of form. They are unbeaten in their last 6 games and have won 5 of them. They will be under no pressure and will be able to play their natural game as a result and they would be aware the Etihad outfit will be looking to carry the game to the second leg to their home if they find the going difficult.
We look at the line-up Pep will probably set out with in the beginning, though second-guessing his tactics and formation is next to impossible.
With the match away from home they will probably set out in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Caballero is expected to retain his place as Hart’s future plunges into more uncertainty. Two games in a span of 3 days might be too taxing for the belatedly returned French star Sagna. In that case, Zabaleta will slot in at right-back. Stones will most probably be partnered with Otamendi and though Kolarov gave a much better account of himself against Sunderland, it will probably be Clichy at left-back.
Fernandinho and Fernando can form the double pivot if Pep feels the need to be cautious at first. And Silva will take up the No.10 role.
Sterling will look to continue his new found form and take up the opposite flank to that of Nolito with Sergio Aguero leading the line.