As the world and especially Manchester gears up for the blockbuster match tomorrow, we are finding it difficult to contain our excitement in anticipation of all that is going to unravel tomorrow. Two of the best coaches of their generation, two friends-turned-foe, Manchester City and Manchester United, Pepe Guardiola and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This match has all of this and more. Being a football fan and an English Premier League fan it doesn’t get better than this.
Talking about Manchester City, Pep will be quietly determined to go home with 3 points from the Old Trafford tomorrow. There is more than pride, ego and professional achievement at stake. But before the Catalan can think about that, he needs to do the unenviable job of selecting the team that he believes will be capable of delivering what they seek. We briefly look at 3 areas he needs to focus on with the team-sheet due to be announced 15 hours from now.
FILL THE SERGIO AGUERO SHAPED VOID
Sergio Aguero’s otherwise low-key elbow played truant when the stakes were highest and hence Pep will be bereft of the services of the Argentine maestro. Though it is evident he has the options, but it is debatable whether they can be anywhere as effective as Kun. Kelechi Iheanacho presents himself as the most obvious like-for-like candidate up top but Pep can also opt for Leroy Sane, Nolito or even Sterling in the false no.9 role, which he has previously employed.
SANE AND GUNDOGAN CONUNDRUM
Both the players have been passed fit for the derby but before the fans get excited, a lot of thought has to be gone behind whether they should be included straight away or not. Perhaps if Aguero was not injured, such a scenario wouldn’t have got so much leverage but with their main goalscorer missing there is a temptation to surprise United.
But Gundogan has returned after 4 months due to a dislocated kneecap and will be absolutely vital for their Champions League ambitions. He just can’t be risked from the start in such a high voltage match.
With Sane, the risk is low, injury wise. But with his team performing admirably till now, Pep would be better off keeping him as a surprise weapon if the need arises.
GO FOR THE WIN
In seasons gone by, if City were to go to Old Trafford in their 4th match, that too without their main striker it would probably have been a defence first strategy where a draw would have been deemed a good result. But Pep Guardiola doesn’t follow the rule books. He will try to achieve the win with the 11 players available to him and it is best if he keeps his natural instincts intact as City do have the personnel to go head on against their arch-rivals.
Let the Derby commence!