Guardiola makes his league debut as Manchester City manager against Sunderland on Saturday. Who do we think will line up, and will the Mackems have enough to keep City at bay?
Huge Spending by City
City have laid out almost £150m on players this summer, making them the bookies’ favourites for the title, with Guardiola expected to add to the titles they won in 2012 and 2014.
But strangely their business won’t have a big impact on the starting lineup this weekend.
John Stones arrived from Everton this week, probably too soon to start against Sunderland. While the German recruits İlkay Gündoğan and Leroy Sane are both out injured.
Gabriel Jesus will also not arrive in Manchester until the New Year.
Kolarov at CB?
All this means that Kolarov could continue at centre-half, where he’s done quite well in the preseason friendlies, but can’t be tipped as a long-term option.
City do look relatively light here, especially while Vincent Kompany remains on the sidelines.
Familiar Faces Further Forward
If the team that started against Arsenal last weekend is any indication, David Silva, Nolito, Aguero and Sterling will all begin the game on Saturday.
Guardiola may also make room in the midfield for de Bruyne, who has been eased back to fitness after Euro 2016.
As Guardiola guides his team into competitive football it could be a good thing that the team will look a lot like the one that ended last season.
It may take time for the former Bayern and Barcelona coach to get his ideas across, and we’ve seen them struggle to play the ball out of defence this summer. Arsenal’s winner on Sunday came from this kind of breakdown.
So it will help that Pellegrini’s attacking combinations will still be intact, and these should help them overcome a solid but uninspiring Sunderland team.
Who Will Start for Manchester City?
It should be much the same as last weekend’s friendly, so expect: Hart; Sagna, Otamendi, Kolarov, Clichy; Delph, Fernandinho; Sterling, Silva, Nolito; Agüero.
Sunderland Flirting with the Drop
Sunderland haven’t finished higher than 14th since 2011-12 and have suffered three very close calls in that time. Last season was no different as Sam Allardyce steered them to safety at teh eleventh hour.
Big Sam has left, replaced by David Moyes, whose last two appointments at Man United and Real Sociedad haven’t gone to plan. They look odds-on for another difficult campaign this year.
Slow Start Predicted
Part of their problem has been getting off the mark at the beginning of the season. Sunderland haven’t won a league game in August for five years now.
They also won only three matches on the road last season.
An Even Weaker Squad
And more worrying is that they actually look worse off now that Yann M’Vila and DeAndre Yedlin have left the club following their loan spells.
The one bright spot is that their defence looks stronger now that the impressive Lamine Koné has been paired with Papy Djilobodji, signed from Chelsea last week.
Relying on Last Season’s Signings
None of this to say that they have a terrible squad. Jeremain Lens, Wahbi Khazri and Jan Kirchhoff are all capable footballers
Their English players, Watmore, Cattermole and Rodwell are also able support players. With a strong defence and spine, you can bet that Sunderland are going to remain difficult to break down under Moyes.
Blunt in Attack
But there are big worries about that attack. Whether Borini or Defoe starts up there you have to assume that City will be relatively comfortable on Saturday.
Borini was also preferred on the right last season, and after Steven Fletcher’s departure it leaves them looking toothless.
It’s a bit of a missed opportunity given Manchester City’s defensive shortage at the moment.
What Will Sunderland’s Lineup Be?
Kirchhoff, Billy Jones and Defoe should all shake off various niggles before the weekend, and Sunderland could line up as follows:
Mannone; Jones, Djilobodji, Koné, Van Aanholt; Lens, Kirchhoff, Cattermole, Khazri; Borini; Defoe.
When Will Manchester City vs Sunderland Take Place?
Saturday August 13 at 17:30, at the City of Manchester Stadium.
Manchester City vs Sunderland Prediction
Seeing as we’re at the start of Guardiola regime, this weekend may see Manchester City at their weakest. Memorably, he suffered defeat to Numancia in his first league match as Barcelona coach in 2008.
It’s a shame for Sunderland that they’re not in a position to capitalise.
David Moyes will look to keep things very tight and will sacrifice possession for shape, but if City score early then it could get messy. A 3-0 home win looks like a good bet.