Manchester City will be looking to register a fourth successive win in all competitions when they welcome cross-city rivals Manchester United to the Etihad Stadium after the international break.
City, who have won just two of their last six meetings with United, have come into the current pause off the back of a comfortable 3-0 win over Wolves last Saturday. Goals from Jack Grealish, Erling Haaland and Phil Foden were enough to get the job done for Pep Guardiola’s side, ensuring they bounced back from their disappointing 1-1 draw Aston Villa two weeks earlier.
Victory at Molineux did lift City back to the top of the Premier League table for just under 24 hours, quickly being replaced by Arsenal, who defeated Brentford 3-0 on Sunday. Nevertheless, City are in a strong position to resume their title charge when the campaign recommences in just over a week’s time.
City are currently nursing a handful of injury problems, with Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte and Kalvin Phillips all missing the win over Wolves. However, the current pause will allow the Blues the chance to try and recover Walker and Laporte, but Phillips faces a longer spell on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.
With that in mind, MEN Sport has taken a close look at how City could line-up following the international break if Phillips is their one and only injury concern.
This position picks itself. The Brazilian has started each of City’s opening seven league fixtures and has kept four clean sheets in the process. He is a guaranteed starter.
The right-back and left-back berths are automatically filled by Walker and Cancelo, respectively, when Guardiola has both of them available for selection. It is at centre-back, however, where he could face a selection headache once everyone is fit and firing on all cylinders.
Guardiola has five to choose from, including summer signing Manuel Akanji, meaning he is spoilt for choice when they’re all available. However, Dias is a guaranteed starter, leaving John Stones, Nathan Ake, Laporte and Akanji scrapping for the remaining spot.
All are capable of filling it but Laporte is the most likely winner of the position, such is his status at the club. He made 44 appearances last term and formed a solid partnership with Dias.
Just like at centre-back, Guardiola is spoilt for choice in the centre of midfield when everyone is available for selection. De Bruyne is a certain starter in the attacking-midfield berth, but Bernardo is under constant pressure from Ilkay Gundogan to retain his place.
Both of them are equally deserving of starting every week, but Bernardo has started the last five league games, meaning he might just get the nod. Rodri has little pressure on his shoulders to keep his place while Phillips is sidelined, such is his role as the midfield anchor.
Mahrez might still be waiting for his season to explode into life but once it does you can almost guarantee that he will kick-on and nail down a place in the team. The Algerian has not started not started any of the last three league matches and is yet to score or grab an assist this season.
On the opposite side, Grealish will be buoyed after getting his first goal of the campaign last weekend, meaning he will be aiming to kick-on. However, Foden has been the most sprightly of the Blues’ wide players so far, meaning he could start on the left.