Manchester City make their first appearance in the Carabao Cup this season as they host Chelsea in a third-round clash. The game will be played at the Etihad Stadium on the 9th of November, kicking off at 8 pm GMT live on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom.
Team News and Predicted XI
In his press conference, Pep Guardiola confirmed that Kalvin Phillips will be part of the matchday squad after recovering from successful shoulder surgery. Although a start is unlikely, the English midfielder will be hoping to get some minutes under his belt tomorrow night, especially with Gareth Southgate's World Cup selection up and coming.
His compatriot Kyle Walker, however, remains absent due to ongoing groin surgery recovery, whilst his full-back partner Joao Cancelo is also ruled out as he serves his suspension from his first-half red card on the weekend.
Guardiola insists that he has yet to decide whether Erling Haaland will be involved tomorrow evening; the Norwegian striker is still 'not perfect' as he recovers from a minor ankle injury. I expect the number 9 to be sidelined initially and used off the bench if needed, as we saw against Fulham on the weekend.
As for the starting XI, with it being a cup game, I expect Stefan Ortega to start in between the sticks, making it his third competitive appearance for the Blues.
With both of his senior full-backs unavailable, Guardiola will likely rely on the younger generation to take him through to the next round. I think Rico Lewis has earned a start at right back on Wednesday after an impressive display last week against Sevilla. The left-back position could be filled by either Sergio Gomez, Josh Wilson-Esbrand or even Nathan Ake – however, I think the Spaniard will be given the nod.
Guardiola has a full set of centre-backs at his disposal against Chelsea, which has been a rarity this season, thus I think he will optimise his rotation while he can and partner Ruben Dias alongside Aymeric Laporte, who were both rested on the weekend.
Moving up the field, I expect Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne to receive a well-deserved rest tomorrow evening, leaving the opportunity for a midfield three of Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden. I expect Foden to be given a license to roam and exploit the spaces while the other two take up deeper and more defensive roles.
As for the front three, I think there will be two inverted wingers of Riyad Mahrez on the right and Jack Grealish on the left, with Julian Alvarez leading the line down the middle. Mahrez and Grealish have had their fair share of criticism this season – however, with potentially two orthodox full-backs who like to overlap, I think this game will suit them well.
Alvarez scored again on the weekend, bringing his tally to six goals so far this season, an impressive record which I’m sure he will be looking to improve on Wednesday evening.
Ortega, Lewis, Dias, Laporte, Gomez, Gundogan, Bernardo, Foden, Grealish, Alvarez, Mahrez
Chelsea currently sit in 7th place in the Premier League, which after a ruthless and expensive transfer market, is nothing short of disappointing. It didn’t take long for new owner Todd Boehly to take drastic action as he sacked Thomas Tuchel before the end of September; his replacement, Graham Potter, however, hasn’t been able to adapt to life as Chelsea manager as he would have hoped, only winning seven of his first 12 games in charge.
Potter has yet to successfully imprint his DNA and style of play on this Chelsea team, and they have looked stale and uninspired in recent games – particularly in their 1-0 loss to Arsenal on the weekend, which showed little fight or creativity. Potter and his boys will be determined to bounce back from that result, and with the title now almost out of sight, a chance for some silverware will be additional motivation for the London side.
Although he has done some system tinkering since taking over, I expect Potter to set up with five at the back; knowing City will undoubtedly have more of the ball, he will hope to defend tightly and counterattack when possible. He will be relying on the pace of forwards for this, which makes me think that Raheem Sterling will return to the Etihad tomorrow for the first time since leaving the club in the summer.
Regarding team news, Chelsea currently have a long injury list, with Ngolo Kante, Wesley Fofana, Reece James, Kepa and Ben Chilwell all ruled out for the fixture.
Predicted XI: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Chalobah, Koulibaly, Cucurella, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic, Gallagher, Pulisic, Havertz, Sterling
The first-ever fixture between the two clubs was on the 7th of December 1907 and ended up as a 2-2 draw. The most recent clash on the 15th of January 2022 saw De Bruyne score the only goal in a 1-0 victory for the Blues.
Referee: Simon Hooper
Assistants: Darren Cann & Adrian Holmes
Fourth Official: Paul Tierney
Written by: @BrookbanksHenry
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