Is it time for Rico Lewis against Manchester United?
Such a question would have been unthinkable mere weeks ago, yet is a genuine conundrum for Pep Guardiola as he works out which players have the hunger that he needs for this game. Manchester City have been terrific in some matches since the World Cup but uncharacteristically poor in others and Lewis has been the standout full-back ahead of the likes of Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo.
Nevertheless, it would be a huge call to pick Lewis ahead of them for this game and a decision that the manager has almost never made before in his City career – starting Phil Foden in the league game with Tottenham three days after their Champions League exit to the same opponents in 2019 is probably the only other time. That paid off handsomely, and however big a talking point it would be to pick Lewis there is plenty of evidence to say it could have the same result again for Guardiola.
Bossing it at Old Trafford
City have bested United in every year of Guardiola&aposs time in England but a weird quirk of the rivalry is the amount of away wins dwarfs home wins. United have won some games at the Etihad but have won just two of the last ten meetings at Old Trafford.
The Blues have made this ground their playground in recent years with some truly dominant performance and inventive formations that have been far too much for the home team to handle. They certainly have the players to do that again, even if they are coming into the game on the back of a bad result.
Guardiola said on Friday that his selection thoughts for this game had nothing to do with their abject performance against Southampton, but a raft of changes from that game is expected with nobody playing themselves into the team on that night.
It wouldn&apost be a surprise to see as many as nine or 10 changes from that side, which may have been what was planned all along but does not reflect well on those who started on the south coast.
Erling Haaland has no questions to answer over his form, but he has been used sparingly since the World Cup in an attempt not to aggravate any injuries after the Norwegian struggled with a foot problem picked up in October against his former team Dortmund. Haaland&aposs fewer minutes have seen the goalbreaking antics of his diminish from every three days that all had gotten used to.
Having scored the first City hat-trick in this fixture for 52 years back in October at the Etihad, he will have his eyes on extending his run in this game to remind everyone what he is capable of.