Stones and Aguero back – Man City predicted team vs Atalanta in the Champions League
Rodri and Fernandinho in central defence was the headline selection decision, as fans and pundits questioned whether proceeding without a recognised centre-back was a wise move. But the pair performed well as City took the initiative in South London to relieve pressure on the back four.
Guardiola also sprung a surprise with the decisions to start Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva in attack over Sergio Aguero and Riyad Mahrez. However, his comments since naming that controversial XI at Selhurst Park could hint that a number of players could return on Tuesday.
Then, speaking before the Atalanta fixture, Guardiola said both Nicolas Otamendi (back) and Kyle Walker (illness) were ‘better’ and back in training. However, it might be too soon for either to start.
As for Aleks Zinchenko, who also missed the Palace win, it remains to be seen how serious his own illness was ahead of Tuesday’s clash. It could be that it is safer to play Benjamin Mendy at left-back again.
In midfield, Rodri should revert back to his familiar holding role if Stones returns at the back, and while Kevin de Bruyne remains in irresistible form it could be him that drops out.
Bernardo Silva arguably produced his best performance of the season against Palace, and David Silva sent a reminder that he is quietly one of City’s most effective attacking threats. Guardiola will want to give Bernardo chance to continue the momentum he gained last time out, and resting De Bruyne will give the Belgian a boost in the next fixture against Aston Villa on Saturday.
Bernardo shifting into the centre allows Mahrez to come in on the right, with Raheem Sterling continuing on the left.
Finally, Guardiola discussed his selection dilemma up front on Monday, saying Gabriel Jesus is the ‘best in the world’ at high intensity pressing, while Sergio Aguero is unique in tighter spaces. That would suggest it will be Aguero, rested on Saturday, who will play against Atalanta, with City looking to take the game to their opponents at the Etihad.
Predicted Man City XI vs Atalanta: Ederson; Cancelo, Stones, Fernandinho, Mendy; Rodri, Bernardo, Silva; Mahrez, Sterling, Aguero.