Manchester City welcome Nottingham Forest to the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League on Wednesday evening.
Such is their domestic dominance, City have had to spice up proceedings by giving opponents a two-goal lead in four of their last six Premier League matches. Pep Guardiola’s side are unbeaten in this streak (W2 D2) but the Catalan coach warned that his team is “soft in some departments”.
Here’s the XI Guardiola may deploy to firm up his side for the visit of Forest.
GK: Ederson – The ball-playing goalkeeper has recorded two Premier League assists since 2018, more than Mario Balotelli ever managed in the English top flight.
RB: Joao Cancelo – Almost exactly four years younger than Kyle Walker, Cancelo may be shifted over to his natural flank if Guardiola opts to rest the 32-year-old.
CB: John Stones – Despite playing for one of the richest clubs in the world, Stones made his way to training in a humble – but vintage – Mini Cooper during City’s title-winning season of 2017/18.
CB: Ruben Dias – In an ideal world, Guardiola may take a home game against a newly-promoted side to rest one of the nailed-on starters like Dias. However, injuries have hamstrung the manager’s ability to make widespread changes.
LB: Sergio Gomez – The £11.7m arrival from Anderlecht earned his first minutes off the bench against Crystal Palace but could be in line for a full Premier League debut this Wednesday.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne – How often he actually gets called “Tumble Dryer” is a question only De Bruyne will know but the Belgian is said to have picked up the nickname for his dry WhatsApp responses. Perhaps he could have leant his rapier wit to a better sobriquet.
CM: Rodri – As a kid, Rodri was more interested in understanding football than enjoying it. Guardiola has unashamedly exploited that deeper knowledge by stationing Rodri as the throbbing brain at the base of midfield.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan – Described as “the perfect Pep player” by Philipp Lahm – who didn’t do too badly under Guardiola himself.
RW: Bernardo Silva – The “irreplaceable” Portuguese wriggler has scored in consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time since December.
ST: Erling Haaland – The monolithic Norwegian scored his 13th senior hat-trick against Crystal Palace last weekend. Lionel Messi had only netted a pair of trebles by the time he was Haaland’s age. Cristiano Ronaldo hadn’t scored one.
LW: Phil Foden – Never one to rest on his laurels, in 2020 Foden hired the sprinting coach Tony Clarke who is ominously known as “Madness”.