Manchester City has everything to take part in on Tuesday in their Champions League following leg instead of RB Leipzig, and anthology dilemmas all over the pitch.
Pep Guardiola bridged Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker at Crystal Palace on Saturday, with his four centre-backs executing well in the back four at Selhurst Park. Likewise, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva conducted well in the centre, and there were encouraging broadcasts from Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez in the charge.
Guardiola used traveller as a winger in the initial leg, and Riyad Mahrez scored City’s only goal, so the boss may be tempted to bring both harsh for the second leg.
Rodri, Ederson, and Erling Haaland are the three automated picks in this team for such a game, and Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake will probably construct it as well on current form. Given how well the defence kept out Crystal Palace, I’d be tempted to twig with the same backline that saw four central guards.
De Bruyne has been too crucial on nights such as this not to play, although I would take nearby him with a contributor that can retain the ball to ensure only a few risks are taken. That means Ilkay Gundogan in midfield, Bernardo Silva, and Jack Grealish on the wings.
This is the most formidable line-up of the season to predict so far. Seven defenders are capable of playing, four centre midfielders and four wingers. Only Ederson, Rodri and Erling Haaland can realistically be assured of starting. I’d play a traditional back four, recollect Walker and keep Nathan Ake at left-back. Ruben Dias and John Stones are the most experienced pair; however, the foul would be on the brilliant Manuel Akanji.
De Bruyne has a point to prove, and he will design chances, so I’d play him alongside Gundogan in midfield – using Bernardo off the form for energy in the second half.
In attack, Mahrez will be late, and Foden dropped his height ever so slightly at Crystal Palace. The Grealish-Mahrez combination toil well in the first half in Germany, so I’d recreate that in the home leg.
The tie had been precariously balanced following a 1-1 smoking in Germany, but Haaland chess the game away from City’s rival with a first-half hat-trick and added two more directorial the hour on a great night. His tally for the spice now stands at 39.
Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne grip the other goals, but the evening lies to the 22-year-old Norwegian. He is the first fellow in nine years to outcome five in a Champions League game, and it might have been more having Pep Guardiola not withdrawn him.
Janis Blaswich did well to save his computing but could not retain out the bounce. Then he had his education when the goalkeeper refused Manuel Akanji but not the man of the moment. There was almost disbelief at this point, and only his change spared the Bundesliga side.
De Bruyne had the final say. In a week in which his executive had ordered him to centre on the simple things, he duly completed the rout by coiling the ball into the top nook of the net with the final kick of the match—more brilliance from the Belgian.\
With the famous Poznan honour having an airing, it made for a joyous occasion. Remarkable, given what was on the line. Guardiola had said before he knew his time at City would be judged by some on whether he wins the Champions League.
Asked what he felt was his ‘super-power’, Haaland respond: “My super-strength? After scoring five goals, scoring goals.
“Should I be frank? A lot of goals today I didn’t believe of. I was doing it. On the penalty, I was trying to acquire the ball into the spine of the net, the same with the second, third, and every goal.
“I didn’t think about every single goal. Much of it is just being fast in mind and trying to do the fair thing, trying to put it where the ‘guardian is not.
“I think a small bit of it is grade, but a lot is in the head.”
Asked about Guardiola’s decision to deputy him with half an hour stay, Haaland added: “I told him I would love to score a dual hat-trick, but what can we do?!”