Manchester City host Fulham in their second to last Premier League game before the World Cup on Saturday 5th November, with kick-off at 3 pm GMT.
Team News and Predicted XI
Pep Guardiola's press conference obviously started on the main man, Erling Haaland and his availability. After returning to training this week, he still needs further assessment after pre-match training on Friday but is likely to return here.
If Haaland is available, he'll surely play, and if not, Julian Alvarez, who made an astounding contribution in Wednesday's game against Sevilla with one goal and two assists will get the nod. If Alvarez is selected, it would be his fourth consecutive start for City.
On being asked about Alvarez's consecutive starts and if it's a worry Guardiola simply replied:
"He's so young, at that age you can play every day."
Manuel Akanji has also made his return to match fitness after a small injury he picked up against Leicester last week, and according to Guardiola is 'okay'. However, Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips are still 'out' and remain unavailable for this fixture. With the World Cup so close and few fixtures remaining at club level, the pair will be hoping for a return next week in a bid to get minutes under their belts before selection and the tournament itself.
As for the XI, it feels like a pretty straightforward selection. Ederson returns between the sticks no doubt, with a back four of John Stones, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Joao Cancelo in front of him.
Whilst a start for Rico Lewis after his brilliant full debut for the club in midweek would be deserved, it's unlikely. Stones at right-back and Cancelo on the left will likely continue. I can see Akanji getting minutes though, whether at right-back or centre-half. Keeping him in contention and up to speed is imperative this season.
Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri and Bernardo all started on the bench in midweek, so expect a return for City's first-choice midfield in this game. Despite Riyad Mahrez's better performance against Sevilla – topped off with a goal – I'd expect Phil Foden, who played in midfield midweek, and Jack Grealish, who came off at half-time, to flank the striker.
Ederson; Stones, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo; Foden, Alvarez, Grealish
Fulham have been somewhat of a surprise package. Usually one to come up from the Championship and head straight back down, Marco Silva's side sit in 7th place. From the opening weekend, where they sealed a 2-2 draw with Liverpool thanks to an Aleksandar Mitrovic brace, everyone took notice. Far better recruitment than in previous years played its part, with the likes of Joao Palhinha and Andreas Pereira coming in to beef up their midfield, to great effect.
Despite one of the stars of their Championship winning campaign in 2021/22 leaving in Fabio Carvalho, Fulham have not missed the now Liverpool man. City fans may remember the early goal he scored at the Etihad in last season's FA Cup, but this season it is, once again, all about Mitrovic for Fulham. Many said he'd never fully do it in the Premier League, but after 13 games, he is third in the Golden Boot race with nine goals; one behind Harry Kane in second but eight behind our man Erling at the top.
Marco Silva's style is aggressive, attacking football, but it wouldn't shock anyone to see them drop it for a five at the back to safeguard themselves against any City onslaught. Silva's an adaptable manager, you have to be in the midst of the Premier League table and in the Championship, but with 22 goals, Fulham have outscored both Manchester United and Chelsea this season – not bad going.
Guardiola was asked what he thought of Fulham and if he was surprised to see them in 7th place. Short answer? He's not, calling Silva an exceptional manager and pointing out what makes them a dangerous side:
"They have a good process in behind. Under pressure can use long balls to [Aleksandar] Mitrovic, or second balls for them. A top, good team, no surprise. Drew against Liverpool and continued that way."
City and Fulham last faced each other in an FA Cup fourth-round tie at the Etihad in February 2022. Fulham took an early lead, with City replying almost immediately to eventually win 4-1. Goals from Ilkay Gundogan, John Stones and a brace from Riyad Mahrez sealed the win.
Referee: Darren England
Assistants: Dan Robathan & Nick Greenhalgh
Fourth Official: Robert Jones
VAR: Stuart Attwell
Assistant VAR: Neil Davies
Written by: @olimccoole
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