A massive win against leaders Liverpool has brought Manchester City back in contention to defend their Premier League title. But the Citizens have little time to recover after such a high-intensity Thursday night fixture as they are set to kickstart their FA Cup journey on Sunday evening against Rotherham United at Etihad.
City, meanwhile, have already made it to the semis of EFL Cup defeating Leicester City in mid-December. They must be content with their Cup fixtures so far, and the outing against the struggling Millers seems no different either. The Yorkshire outfit are fighting hard to escape a demotion to the third tier and therefore would require a miracle to secure a result against the heavyweights of English football.
Pep Guardiola, the City chief, is likely to rest the majority of his first-team regulars who had featured against Liverpool. Also, a number of youngsters are likely to be lined up in this apparent ‘stroll in the park’ contest considering the injury woes of custodian Claudio Bravo [Achilles Tendon Rupture], Benjamin Mendy [Knee], Eliaquim Mangala [Knee], Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte [both with minor knocks suffered versus the Reds]. Fabian Delph is ineligible to feature as he serves the final game of a three-match domestic suspension following his sending-off against Leicester City in a league tie.
Guardiola has mostly preferred a 4-3-3 setup and is likely to retain the same against Rotherham this weekend.
Arijanet Muric, the 20-year-old Kosovo international, has been the understudy of Ederson in the absence of injured Claudio Bravo. The young custodian is being lined up in Cup outings and should retain his place following his heroics in the tie-breaker versus the Foxes.
Kyle Walker lost his place to Danilo in recent weeks following his erroneous outing against Crystal Palace. But the Three Lions fullback is expected to return to the starting XI on Sunday along with youngster Oleksandr Zinchenko, who is being deployed in a makeshift left-back role. 17-year-old Eric García left his mark against Leicester and should be handed another start in their central defensive line alongside veteran Nicolas Otamendi whose game-time has been significantly low since the emergence of Aymeric Laporte.
City, nevertheless, must not experiment much in midfield and should line up Fernandinho in his preferred deep-lying role even if he had a fatigued outing this midweek. Ilkay Gundogan is fit to start after an impressive cameo against Liverpool. Kevin De Bruyne, previously sidelined with a muscle strain, should return to action after making it among the substitutes versus the Merseysiders.
Guardiola should de-stress the frontline of Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling who were instrumental on Thursday night. Teenager Phil Foden must operate down the left wing whereas Riyad Mahrez is tipped to occupy the other flank. Gabriel Jesus has lost his place to brilliant Sergio Aguero but might be preferred as the ‘number 9’ in this FA Cup third round tie.