Pep Guardiola’s decision against Chelsea can only hint at his strongest squad – Stuart Brennan

The strongest eleven

City are set to return for some of the seven players who missed last week’s FA Cup win over Swindon due to Covid-19.

But with new positives scored this week, and more tests taking place in the morning, the coach can’t finish his squad until the last minute

The starting line-up that beat Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in September may be available again, and with a bit of luck Pep Guardiola can deliver the same 11-level performance as in this near-perfect away performance – but he has a few things to hope for before making the move. his decision.

Ilkay Gundogan and Alex Zinchenko were absent in that match, and while the latter is unlikely to oust left-back Joao Cancelo, Gundogan is a live candidate to start, unless he is one of the new positives.

With Raheem Sterling – who was on the bench at Chelsea – now back to his form and expected to return from his absence last week, Guardiola has two tough choices to make.

Here is Chelsea’s starting lineup in September: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo, Rodri, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Jesus, Foden, Grealish.

Cole is on the right track

Cole Palmer is almost certain to return to the bench for this diver after the Man of the Match show at Swindon last week.

But the 19-year-old can take heart from the fact that every time he impresses he takes another step closer to being a regular, and with Riyad Mahrez now far away in the Africa Cup of Nations, he is on the cusp of claiming more minutes.

Greal’s deal

Jack Grealish has some serious work to do to establish himself as an essential part of this band.

Disciplinary action, which came on top of some normal performances, then followed by a bout of Covid, has dimmed the luster of his £100m movement in the eyes of fans and, most importantly, Guardiola.

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Grealish delivered one of City’s best showings at Stamford Bridge, a dangerous figure down City’s left, and paired up well with the itinerant Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva of the day.

If he fits in again, and starts, he needs a similar convincing display to start erasing the unfavorable impressions he’s been leaving in the last month.

top two intertwined

These two teams have met only once before as the top two teams in the Premier League, in January 2015.

On that occasion, David Silva’s goal earned the Blues a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

But the result ensured champions Chelsea maintained their five-point lead at the top, and were part of a dismal streak of City that saw them win by just four points out of 12, before a late rise narrowed the lead to the right points.

A draw would be a much better result for City, so Chelsea’s style would be very interesting.

Manchester City’s David Silva celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. photo. Photo date: Saturday, January 31, 2015. Watch the story of the Chelsea football team. Must read photo credit: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. Limitations: Editorial use only. 45 photos maximum during the match. There is no video emulation or “live” promotion. No interest in games, contests, merchandise, betting or club/single player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, matches or club/league logos.

penalty clause

Gabriel Jesus’ missed penalty at Swindon was a stark reminder of the Blues’ ongoing issues from the Fur.

And with Mahrez out of international service and any penalty against Chelsea likely to be decisive in the match, this is an issue that Guardiola would be wise to tackle before the game.

Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne are direct favourites, although they have had their own pains with important penalties missed in the past, while Phil Foden was a superb ball forward but missed the crucial penalty that saw City exit from Carabao. West Ham Cup this season.

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