Manchester City will bring their Champions League group stage campaign to a close on Wednesday evening when they take on Sevilla at the Etihad Stadium.
City secured sage passage to the last-16 of the Champions League when they played out a goalless draw in Copenhagen three weeks ago, before securing top spot in Group G when they drew with Borussia Dortmund last week.
With Sevilla already guaranteed to finish third in the group and drop down into the Europa League, there is nothing riding on Wednesday’s meeting.
Pep Guardiola is therefore expected to take the opportunity to rest some of his key players ahead of a Premier League clash with Fulham on Saturday. Erling Haaland will play no part as he remains out with a foot complaint, while the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Joao Cancelo could be afforded a well-earned rest.
The match also represents a chance to give valuable minutes to those who have struggled for game time so far this season, and potentially even some young talents.
This might just be the most difficult City XI to predict this season, but our City writers have had a go anyway.
Guardiola will play a stronger team than this, but there is no better game to rest your players ahead of the next three to come in 10 days.
Julian Alvarez obviously leads the line, and Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez need to play themselves into their best rhythm. Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias can come into the defence, with Rico Lewis and Josh Wilson-Esbrand given a chance either side of them.
City really don’t have spare midfielders with Kalvin Phillips injured, so I would start Sergio Gomez as the holding midfielder, give Phil Foden a chance in the middle and then play Ilkay Gundogan to rest Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.
As much as I’d like to see Scott Carson play, Stefan Ortega will get the nod in goal. Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias were benched at Leicester so can come back in, as can Sergio Gomez who hasn’t played since his red card at Copenhagen. On the right, Rico Lewis can get a start so Joao Cancelo can have a night off.
I’d look at resting Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne, so Ilkay Gundogan can hold the midfield, alongside Bernardo. In attack, Jack Grealish will benefit from a chance to try and get on the scoresheet, and Riyad Mahrez needs a good performance after some unhelpful errors in recent weeks. Julian Alvarez will lead the line.
That means the only place to fit Cole Palmer in – as well as giving De Bruyne and Rodri a rest – is in the number ten role that Alvarez has played in a few times this season. If possible, I’d like to see some youth players given a chance later in the game, like Shea Charles, Oscar Bobb and Carlos Borges.
The ‘dead-rubber’ nature of this match means it’s an obvious opportunity for some of City’s key players to give their legs a rest before the Fulham game on Saturday and the Carabao Cup tie against Chelsea next week.
Joao Cancelo and Kevin de Bruyne seem the obvious candidates for a rest – the former has played the most minutes of all City’s outfielders this season – while Ederson will drop out for Stefan Ortega in order to get the German involved.
Sergio Gomez and Rico Lewis could come in at left and right-back respectively, as should the two centre-backs who didn’t start against Leicester on Saturday, Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake.
Julian Alvarez will almost certainly deputise for the injured Erling Haaland up-front, potentially flanked by Cole Palmer for what would be his first start of the campaign. Phil Foden has started City’s last two Premier League games on the bench, so he should get a runout.