A trip to Man City is hard enough as it is, but we’ll be up against it in more ways than one here.
Not only are Saint-Maximin, Almiron, Lascelles, Hayden, S Longstaff and Carroll expected to miss out, we’ll be facing a City side who’ll be keen to respond after a shock 1-0 defeat to Southampton on Sunday night.
Thankfully, we’re now safe and looking at a potential late push towards the top 10, but it’ll take some effort for our patched up side to get a result here.
On the positive side, we’ve scored 6 goals in our last two games, looking far more likely to score goals and win games since switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Yet, on the flip side, we’ll be forced to make big changes and face a Man City team who’ve scored 12 goals (and conceded none) in three games at the Etihad since football returned – and two of those were against Liverpool and Arsenal!
(4-5-1): Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Fernandez, Rose – Lazaro, Shelvey, Bentaleb, M Longstaff, Ritchie – Gayle.
Dubravka will likely continue in goal and may need to be at his best if we’re to stand a chance!
Ahead of him, it sounds like Lascelles is a doubt after aggravating an ankle injury that almost kept him out of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with West Ham. He had a rare off day over the weekend and should be saved for Saturday’s trip to Watford instead, so it looks like Schar will come back in here and partner Fernandez?
The Swiss star was poor in our last game with City and doesn’t seem suited to a four-man defence, but Bruce doesn’t have many other options with Lejeune and Clark not yet fully fit and Dummett ineligible!
At right-back, Krafth did another good job on Sunday and looks a lot more suited in a flat back four after previously struggling at wing-back. Yedlin will be hoping for a start, but I can only see him coming in if we play five at the back with Krafth, Fernandez and Schar in the middle.
Down the other side, Rose is well rested and will surely start here, with Manquillo due a rest and struggling on Sunday against Jarrod Bowen.
In midfield, I can see Bruce packing it out to make up for the lack of options at the back. With energetic duo Hayden and S Longstaff missing, Bentaleb will start – and he deserves to after another slick showing on Sunday – and I can see Shelvey and Matty Longstaff playing alongside him, with one of them tasked to break forward the rare occasion we get the ball and look to counter.
Starting Matty in the league would be a first since January and a slight surprise given he’s STILL not agreed to a new deal, but he can get about the pitch and is one few midfield options Bruce has available to him for this. Not only that, I think City would have a field day if we had just Bentaleb and Shelvey protecting a four-man defence.
With ASM and Almiron major doubts and expected to be rested, we’ll surely see Lazaro start here down the right. It’s not exactly an easy game for him to come into and I still maintain he should’ve been in from the off against West Ham after his brilliant cameo at Bournemouth, but at least he’ll be able to show what he can do for more than just 15 minutes here!
Down the left it could be Joelinton, however it seems like a good time to bring Ritchie into the side now he appears to be fit again, with his energy and drive something we’ll need plenty of if we’re to avoid a hammering here. Saying that, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s part of a midfield three (to save Shelvey for Watford) and Joelinton is played on the left again to give us more of a threat on the counter.
Up top, it’ll be Gayle or Joelinton you would think. Gayle doesn’t like being isolated and perhaps suits a counter-attacking approach less than the more powerful Brazilian, however he’s bagged two goals and an assist in his last three Premier League outings and deserves another start here.
The likes of Muto and Atsu may feature for the first time here given the injury issues we’re contending with this week, however it’s hard to see either starting given they’ve sometimes been left out of Bruce’s squad entirely since the restart.
There’s not much point picking out a few of the ‘ones to watch’ here as this Man City side is littered with top quality players – even without top marksman Sergio Aguero!
Thankfully the man who’s scored 15 goals in his last 13 goals against us isn’t fit, but Kevin De Bruyne will be back in the starting line up after being rested at Southampton and eager to edge closer to Thierry Henry’s assist record.
Phil Foden has been outstanding recently, not looking out of place whatsoever since being handed more game time since the restart, however Gabriel Jesus will be looking to add to his goal tally after struggling to make a big impact since taking Aguero’s place up top.
Where to start!
Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden have been ruled out with hamstring injuries, Miguel Almiron (thigh) and Allan Saint-Maximin (fatigue) are both major doubts, while Bruce has also raised concerns over Jamaal Lascelles (ankle) and Andy Carroll, with both picking up knocks on Sunday.
Florian Lejeune is set to be sidelined once again, while Ciaran Clark is still recovering from ankle surgery, meaning Bruce may not be able to go with five at the back even if he wanted to here!
Aside from Sergio Aguero being out once again, Man City have no fresh injury concerns.
Sadly for us, Kevin De Bruyne is expected to start after being rested in their 1-0 defeat to Southampton.
We’ve been good since football returned, being unbeaten in our last 6 league games with 3 wins and 3 draws, however I can’t see anything other than 3 points for Man City here.
I’d be expecting a loss even if we had a full strength defence, Hayden fit in midfield and biggest attacking threats ASM and Almiron fit to play, but a weakened side up against a Man City one who’ve won their last three home games by an aggregate score of 12-0 is ominous to put it mildly.
Hopefully we can tame what could be wounded Man City animal after their surprise loss on Sunday, however I’m just hoping we don’t collapse and at least keep the score down!
Who knows, maybe the side Bruce pieces together can prove me wrong and come away with the most unlikely of results…
Prediction: Man City 4-0 Newcastle