Pep Guardiola must be rubbing his hands together because a chance like this doesn’t come along often for him.
After watching his Manchester City side climb to the top of the table for the first time this season with a victory over Watford on Saturday, the manager has been further treated with the next fixture being a complete dead rubber.
City will travel to Germany to face RB Leipzig on Tuesday in the final match of their Champions League group stage campaign, with top spot already firmly secured following the comeback win over Paris Saint-Germain last time out.
As there is absolutely nothing on the line for the Blues, with the match holding little significance for Leipzig either.
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A win would guarantee a third-placed finish and a route into the Europa League for the Germans but they would only miss out on that if Club Brugge got a better result than them in their final match against PSG in France, which remains unlikely despite the draw in the reverse fixture and even if the Parisians rest lots of players.
New caretaker boss Achim Beierlorzer may also be hoping his side put in a good display in his first match after taking over from the sacked Jesse Marsch but, otherwise, there is not a lot riding on the game at all.
Regardless, Guardiola should pay no mind of how significant the game may be for Leipzig and instead use it as the great opportunity it is to completely rest the side.
It’s been a busy last few weeks and it’s only going to get more so as the hectic festive fixture period will soon begin, with games coming quicker and quicker. The Leipzig match represents an oasis in the middle of a desert for City: a place to rest amid an arduous journey before continuing once again.
The likes of Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias have started nearly every game this season, while Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan, and Kyle Walker have played lots recently. All should be given the night off and a full week to recover before next week’s fixture.
Instead, Kevin De Bruyne can come in for his first start since contracting Covid-19 and continue to find his fitness again, while John Stones, Nathan Ake, Aleks Zinchenko, Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez should all come in from the off as well. There could even be a change between the sticks with Zack Steffen replacing Ederson.
The match is also the perfect risk-free environment for Guardiola to hand further opportunities to the club’s promising youngsters. Cole Palmer should certainly start so he can build upon his promising performance vs Everton and there’s no reason why the likes of James McAtee, Romeo Lavia, Luke Mbete and Josh Wilson-Esbrand couldn’t be involved from the bench.
It’s not a regular occurrence that at this stage of the season City get to play in such a meaningless game, they usually only come when the title has already been wrapped up in May. But one has come their way this year and they would be fools not to capitalise to the fullest extent.
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