Manchester City host Norwich in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon as a full capacity ground returns to the Etihad.
The Blues’ tumultuous pre-season, with players returning to training late after this summer’s tournaments, arguably condemned them to a slow start and the manner in which they performed away at Tottenham as they lost 1-0 might not have been surprising to some.
With City’s Premier League rivals having strengthened in the transfer market, though, there is a little margin for error across the season’s upcoming fixtures for Pep Guardiola’s side if they want to successfully defend their league title.
It’s therefore important that City secure the three points against Norwich on Saturday, although their track record against the Canaries suggests that might not be an issue – City should also be buoyed by the full return of multiple key players.
But which players will Guardiola start against Norwich? Here’s how our MEN writers think City should line up…
Every player apart from Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne has had a full week of training under their belt and that should mean changes from the team that played at Spurs.
If De Bruyne’s ankle still isn’t right there is no point in risking him, especially when Jack Grealish looked promising in the middle linking up with Raheem Sterling.
John Stones and Kyle Walker should both be fit to return and Stones probably edges Aymeric Laporte given their respective situations. Aleks Zinchenko can also come in for Benjamin Mendy, who didn’t look on Sunday like he’d had a full pre-season.
Riyad Mahrez should be disappointed with his last game after looking good before then, while Ferran Torres is still more in favour than Gabriel Jesus is.
This fixture looks an ideal opportunity to get a little more match fitness into players who were short last week, although Guardiola won’t want his side to be too short.
That means Stones should start but Walker should be on the bench again, while it also looks like an ideal opportunity to bring Zinchenko in for Mendy at left-back.
Midfield options are limited with De Bruyne missing training on Friday and Bernardo not given a chance yet as he waits on a transfer, so Rodri, Gundogan and Grealish is the best possible combination.
In attack Mahrez and Sterling can play on the wings again, but Jesus should lead the line ahead of Torres after getting 20 minutes last week.
Which players would make your starting XI? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Guardiola’s side have a perfect opportunity to record a stylish win here after their 1-0 defeat at Tottenham last weekend and although Ake took the blame for Spurs’ goal in that game, questions have to be asked of Mendy – or Dias for that matter.
Unlike that pair, though, Dias has consistently proved his brilliance and will maintain his spot, but Stones and Zinchenko can come in alongside him while Walker can make his return – all three players would have now benefited from a full week of training.
Despite looking sharp in pre-season, Fernandinho was lacklustre against Tottenham and therefore Rodri can anchor the midfield and the forward three can remain unchanged.