After despatching the Premier League champions of 2015/16 City return to action in the Champions League with a home fixture on Tuesday evening against Dutch side Feyenoord.
The victory against Leicester came at a cost though with the loss of John Stones for up to six weeks after the defender pulled up with a hamstring strain during the first half. This is a serious blow on a personal level and for the team given the young man’s imperious form. His improvement this season has been palatable and has silenced many of the doubters who were quick to write him off after his first season at City. The absence of Vincent Kompany has see him step up and his acceptance of the mantle of organiser in the defence has not only demonstrated his leadership qualities but also bolstered his self-belief. He has become a better player and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Thankfully Vincent Kompany has returned to first team action although his first game back could have ended a lot sooner had Graham Scott chosen to issue a red card for his scything down of Vardy inside 3 minutes at the King Power. Thankfully he escaped this sanction but he will have to sharpen up quickly – we can ill afford to lose another defender with the Premier League games coming thick and fast and the derby less than a month away.
Having seen his side qualify for the knockout stages of the competition I expect Pep to ring the changes for this fixture against Feyenoord. Aguero may start having been rested after his dizzy spell during the international break but I fancy outings from the start of Tuesday’s match for the likes of Bravo, Danilo, Mangala, Bernardo Silva and Gundogan.
Since their 0-4 defeat to City in the reverse fixture the wheels have somewhat come off Feyenoord’s season. They went into the initial group stage match against City having won all their domestic games but in the subsequent 13 games they have only secured 3 wins whilst their opponents have continued a record breaking run. The Dutch side have lost all of their Champions League games so far conceding 12 goals in the process. In fact their record is a mirror image of City’s who have netted 12 times and only conceded 3. Whilst Guardiola will be keen to maintain the momentum that his side have built up he may feel that the risk of losing the winning streak one worth taking to rest his players ahead of the away game against Huddersfield at the weekend especially as that game is swiftly followed on the Wednesday with a home match against Southampton.
As we approach the busy Christmas and New Year schedule Pep will be juggling his squad and trying to balance the needs of maintaining the head of steam that has been built up against the risks of player fatigue and the risk of injury. This is where he earns his corn but we can see the effects of his work with the players every game – he has built a team ethic which is reaping dividends and is finally make some nay sayers pay attention and grudgingly admit that he might know what he is doing.
Winning trophies in modern day football is done by the whole squad & this week we may see some of those other members of the group take centre stage.