Manchester City wrap up 2022 with a home game against Everton in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.
Fans from east Manchester had to wait longer than any other club to see their side return to top-flight football after the World Cup. A yawning 26 days separated the 2-1 defeat to Brentford and Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Leeds United.
Fortunately for eager spectators – though the club’s medical staff may feel differently – there are only three days until City’s next Premier League fixture.
Here’s the XI Pep Guardiola may deploy after this short turnaround.
GK: Ederson – No player in Premier League history had raced to 150 wins in less than 200 matches until Ederson clocked up that landmark triumph in his 197th appearance this week (per Opta).
RB: Rico Lewis – Guardiola admitted it would have been ‘unfair’ to leave Lewis out against Leeds after his near faultless display in the Carabao Cup. The 18-year-old has only bolstered his case for a starting berth after another performance which belied his tender years on Wednesday.
CB: John Stones – The ‘Barnsley Beckenbauer’ only spent three-and-a-half years at Everton before City forked out £47.5m.
CB: Aymeric Laporte – According to the forthright centre-back: “Footballers almost never tell the truth.”
LB: Nathan Ake – Given their proclivity to invert, it’s unlikely that Guardiola would field Joao Cancelo and Lewis in the same lineup. The more defensively-minded Ake represents a natural counterweight to the prodigious teenager.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan – More than a decade on from his days in the classroom, Gundogan has admitted that he still has ‘nightmares about school’. “I can wake up in a cold sweat from thinking about old exam papers.”
CM: Rodri – Last season, Rodri got away with one of the most egregious handballs of the campaign against Everton – a fact that will not have been forgotten by the travelling Toffees (or onlooking Liverpool fans).
CM: Bernardo Silva – Wednesday night’s victory over Leeds was the first game Bernardo hasn’t been involved in since May.
RW: Phil Foden – Boasting a 100% record against the Toffees, Foden has found the net in three of his last four Premier League appearances against Everton, including the only goal when these clubs met in February.
ST: Erling Haaland – 20 Premier League goals in 14 games is so outrageous it’s almost hard to comprehend. To add some perspective, Jermain Defoe (who scored 162 Premier League goals in total), Michael Owen (149), Robbie Keane (125), Nicolas Anelka (125) and Steven Gerrard (120) never hit 20 across a single season in their careers.
LW: Jack Grealish – Guardiola was quick to praise his £100m acquisition but admitted: “He has to score more goals and be competitive because he has the quality to do it.” With four Premier League goals since joining the club, Grealish has notched as many as the centre-back Laporte in the same time frame.