After a short break in play for the first international break of the season, the Premier League is back with a bang as Manchester City host Liverpool in what already looks like a potential top-of-the-table clash.
Sitting pretty in fourth position and only a mere two points behind their noisy neighbours Manchester United, Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to kickstart their season with a brand of both possession-based and free-flowing attacking football to not only blow Liverpool away but to set a standard.
If the Alexis Sánchez saga is to have any effect on City's performance this Saturday, it will surely only bettered by Liverpool’s summer struggles to keep hold of Philippe Coutinho.
Away from the transfer window, like City, Liverpool have impressed so far with an equal record to their rivals going into this weekend with their front-three attracting much of the headlines.
Guardiola will surely seek revenge against his old Bundesliga nemesis Jürgen Klopp, especially considering that City only took one point from a possible six when the two sides met last season.
Yet with Tuesday’s Champions League match against Feyenoord a further consideration, just who will Guardiola call upon to overcome City’s first real challenge of the season in a strong Liverpool side?
Let’s take a look at XI players that could start for Manchester City against Liverpool this Saturday.
Goalkeeper and defence
GK – Ederson Moraes: Joe who? Perhaps last season one of the more difficult positions to predict consistently, new boy Ederson has certainly hit the ground running with a much more solid start to life in the Premier League than teammate Claudio Bravo in a hapless debut display against United last season. Against an attack of Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, Ederson will have to be at his best. A positive game against Liverpool could be all it takes to establish himself fully as City’s number one.
RB – Kyle Walker: Back from suspension after his well-deserved punishment for what was an incredibly dangerous, callous and career-threatening foul during City’s 1-1 draw with Everton, Walker will more than likely feature at right-back in place of Brazilian Danilo. Not only is Walker that bit more experienced than his Brazilian team-mate but in what has the potential to be a game played at lightning speed, as the Premier League’s fastest player this season, his acceleration will be key to stopping Liverpool’s attacks from either wing.
CB – Nicolás Otamendi: Unfairly criticised for being too rash for a central defender with many pundits pointing the finger at his decision-making in key moments, Otamendi does and has often admittedly slipped up in the past, but for every error there are double the amount of key tackles, blocks and interceptions committed by the Argentine which go unnoticed. Otamendi will surely start and both his strength and aerial ability will be vital in restricting Liverpool, most notably from set pieces.
CB – John Stones: Had captain Vincent Kompany been fit he would more than likely have partnered either one of Otamendi or Stones in a back four which led (eventually) to all three points against Bournemouth, but a reoccurrence of a calf injury means that Stones will surely start against his former cross-city rivals. After a spell on the sidelines and interlude with England, a revitalised Stones could just be what the club and the individual need for a fresh start in this year's Premier League.
LB – Benjamin Mendy: A fan’s favourite before even kicking a ball with a vibrant, larger-than-life character which the club have needed desperately for many a season, it was so pleasing to see that after talking the talk via social media that Mendy was more than capable of walking the Premier League walk after an impressive top-flight debut against Bournemouth. His enthusiasm, charisma and likability fill the void left by Pablo Zabaleta and if there’s any further way of getting the fans on his side, it will most certainly be with a strong performance against North West rivals Liverpool. Whether that will work when it comes to avoiding a cheeky Nandos fine however, remains to be seen.
CDM – Yaya Touré: After captaining City in their August friendly with Girona it did look as though - despite not starting against Brighton - Touré would be quickly back in the first-team fold in no time. Yet with Guardiola opting for a three-man midfield incorporating both De Bruyne and Silva, there has been little room for two defensive-minded midfielders, meaning that the Ivorian has often missed out. Against Liverpool however, we could see the Spanish boss deviating from his favoured attacking 4-3-3 to a formation adjusted to guarantee greater defensive stability and distribution of the ball and for this reason Yaya Touré is most definitely the man to replace a jaded Fernandinho om the centre of the park.
CM – Kevin De Bruyne: The headache of Fantasy Football managers up and down the country, with a expensive price tag ultimately comes great responsibility and whilst De Bruyne has in the past two seasons been Manchester City’s stand-out performer, his contribution so far this season has been minimal. Of course his distribution and attention to fine detail in the balls played across the pitch would be missed without the Belgian in the side but in dropping into deep position as he did against Bournemouth, De Bruyne could be much more effective especially in a City counter-attack against a high-pressing Liverpool side.
CM – David Silva: Silva’s magic, he wears a magic hat, so the fans sing - perhaps to cover up his lack of hair which has set social media alight with a mixture of both shock and surprise. Nevertheless his continued consistent contribution to City each game is unquestionable with critics often proved wrong after a number of eye-catching and often match-winning displays as good as any during his City career. Silva will most definitely start and if he can take his impressive international form with Spain in to Saturday’s game, Silva could be crucial in City’s chances of brushing Liverpool aside.
LW – Gabriel Jesus: A strange and perhaps even questionable selection by many people’s estimations after Jesus’ man of the match winning performance as a central lone striker during City’s victory over Bournemouth. Yet considering that both Jesus has just returned from international duty and more importantly the need to start with a bold, match-winning starting XI against Liverpool, Jesus could well be deployed at left-wing allowing a player whose prolific goalscoring record against Liverpool is truly exceptional. Plus any potential tiredness could be replaced mid-game by an incoming Leroy Sané or Danilo in a like-for-like swap with the Brazilian.
RW – Bernardo Silva: There may have been no gold or bronze awards for City so far this league campaign but the club are blessed with not only one but two Silva’s of the highest order. Bernardo Silva is largely seen as a direct replacement for David once he hangs up his boots at the end of his contract, which has this week been rumoured to have been extended by a further year, and has most certainly been lively since his exposure to the City first-team. With the absence of Raheem Sterling again due to a suspension for supposedly reckless celebrations, City's second Silva is the obvious candidate to step into the void left by the Englishman.
ST – Sergio Agüero: Should he stay or should he go? City avoided the awkward questions quite well throughout the transfer window but whether Agüero will start regularly or not this season is a question that nobody other than Pep Guardiola knows the answer to. Although City’s future intentions look likely to prioritise Gabriel Jesus as the club’s preferred striking option, in looking solely at the present, Sergio Agüero has to start against Liverpool. As well as a bold statement of intent against direct title contenders, Agüero is also one City’s most prolific, most influential and most important players at this time of writing and in living in the present, the Argentine is the man to lead City’s attack against a nervy Liverpool back-line.