Chang­ing of the Guard for Blues line-up

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By JOE BRAY

PEP Guardi­ola’s switch to three-atthe-back has made his Manch­ester City start­ing XIs harder to pre­dict than ever in re­cent weeks - and of­ten it is only when the teams line up for kick-off that his se­lec­tion makes sense. That was the case against Manch­ester United this week, when Guardi­ola opted against start­ing recog­nised strik­ers Ser­gio Aguero and Gabriel Je­sus, in­stead us­ing Bernardo Silva as a cen­tral at­tacker to run from deep in be­hind United’s back line. The tac­tic proved ef­fec­tive and City pro­duced one of their best halves of the sea­son at Old Traf­ford. But Guardi­ola is un­likely to adopt the same ap­proach at As­ton Villa.

Aguero can equal the Premier League record for top goalscorer by a for­eign player with a goal at Villa Park and he is surely the favourite to come into the at­tack.

But that leaves Guardi­ola with a de­ci­sion to make, as he will have to drop one of Ra­heem Ster­ling, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo, Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gun­do­gan - who all ex­celled this week.

You would ex­pect Gun­do­gan to be the un­lucky one to drop out, although he has proved im­por­tant to Guardi­ola over a busy De­cem­ber. If City play three at the back again, their mid­field will likely con­sist of De Bruyne and David Silva.

That would mean Bernardo drop­ping to the bench de­spite his mas­ter­class at Old Traf­ford, but Guardi­ola is used to rest­ing key play­ers.

With Aguero lead­ing the line, Ra­heem Ster­ling and Riyad Mahrez can of­fer sup­port, slightly tucked in from the wing to al­low wing­backs Kyle Walker and Aleks Zinchenko space to get for­ward.

Joe Bray

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