Tough Decisions Ahead For Pep Guardiola As Manchester City Face Stoke City
The latest international break has seen Manchester City players’ clock up more miles than any other Premier League team but this is unlikely to be foremost on Pep Guardiola’s mind ahead of the home match against Stoke this Saturday.
After a stunning win against Chelsea the last thing his side needed was the break but that’s the luck of the draw and he now has to decide who to pick for a potentially tough fixture for the blues.
It would be difficult to drop anybody from the win at Stamford Bridge but there are other considerations he now has to take into account.
The biggest one is the potentially crucial game at home at Napolion Tuesday evening where a win would almost certainly put City through as group winners.
It is a competition he desperately wants to do well in and it’s a game the whole of Europe is eager to see with the best two attacking sides in Europe at present going head to head.
This will undoubtedly influence his selection on Saturday but it is equally important to keep the pressure on Manchester United. By the time City kick off on Saturday they will know what they need, as United will have already played Liverpool at lunchtime.
Pep does not strike anybody as manager who would change his squad based on the outcome of an earlier game but this may prove to be the case here.
The biggest selection problem could be the return to fitness of Sergio Aguero. While it seems unlikely he has fully recovered from the injuries he sustained in the unfortunate incident in Amsterdam a fortnight ago, if he were to be fit it would be very difficult to not let him have at least some match time before Tuesday.
A left-back, Fabian Delph has performed admirably but Pep may favour Danillo if he views Delph as the best replacement for long-term absentee Benjamin Mendy. And is Vincent Kompany fit to resume first team duties?
The final issue is the exertion that travel may have placed on City’s South American players with Claudio Bravo, Ederson, Nicolas Otamendi, Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus all playing for their respective nations in the small hours of Wednesday morning.
Whatever he decides Stoke has the potential to be a tricky fixture and City fans do not have to go too far back in time to remember the last time Stoke upset the odds a the Etihad.