Tuesday 20 March 2018

Pep has selection headache ahead of first Cup final as manager of City

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Man City manager Pep Guardiola and striker Sergio Aguero
Man City manager Pep Guardiola and striker Sergio Aguero

Six weeks ago, Pep Guardiola's team selection for the League Cup final would have been a cinch.

With Vincent Kompany injured, Aymeric Laporte still on the transfer wish-list, Fabian Delph flying and Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane were shoo-ins.

Now, as the Blues gear up for their Wembley date with Arsenal on Sunday, only the right back, striker and the three midfielders are clear.

Kyle Walker is assured of the right back spot, despite his shocking gaff at Wigan, while Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and David Silva are almost certain starters.

So what are Guardiola's selection dilemmas, and his options?

Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany

Guardiola has already strongly hinted that he will stick to his policy of playing Claudio Bravo in the cup competitions.


But it must have crossed his mind that this will be his first English final, and he needs his strongest team - which means Ederson.

Could he do a Roberto Mancini, who said Costel Pantilimon would play in 2013 and on the day of the final replaced him with Joe Hart?

The suspension of Fabian Delph hands Guardiola a real problem at left-back, especially against a good attacking team like the Gunners. He has preferred young Aleks Zinchenko recently, but only in games where City will spend 75 per cent of the game on the front foot.

In tougher games, like away trips to Liverpool, Cardiff and Burnley, he has gone for the greater security offered by Danilo.

It makes sense to go for the experience of the former Real Madrid man.

John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi looked like City's answer to Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol until the young England star picked up an injury. He has struggled since then, while Vincent Kompany (below) has re-emerged as a live contender, and now Aymeric Laporte has arrived to add another dimension.

The fact that Guardiola went for the experience of Kompany and Otamendi in Basel last week is perhaps telling, but it really could be any two from four.

Stones has had a torrid time lately, and it may have come a touch too early for Laporte - but the other factor is that those two are City's quickest central defenders, up against a mobile Arsenal attack. Sergio Aguero is almost certain to start up front, although you can rule out nothing with Guardiola keen on the occasional left-field selection.

But Bernardo Silva's emergence, after a slow start to his City career, means that the other two places in the front three are open.

Guardiola pointedly praised Bernardo last week, singling him out as a player who will be at City as long as he is manager. But for a final, it is likely he will revert to the trio that has ripped it up this season, with Raheem Sterling on the right and Leroy Sane on the left.

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