Manchester City have picked up a number of injuries during the international break but may still be able to go strong against Liverpool
Manchester City were already facing questions about the depth of their squad before this raft of injuries during the international break.
An injury to Nathan Ake, added to the sidelining of Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Gomez and John Stones, resulted in Pep Guardiola naming just eight substitutes against Chelsea – including two goalkeepers. The manager insisted afterwards that he has always preferred to work with a small squad and still does, yet any private hopes that the situation would improve have turned to dismay as it significantly worsened.
Ederson and Mateo Kovacic failed to join up with their national teams after picking up problems in the Chelsea game, before Matheus Nunes, Rodri and Erling Haaland all picked up issues that have seen them miss matches for their respective countries.
Being without eight outfield players is a headache for any club, but especially one which only has 20 in total. If none of them recover in time for Liverpool, Guardiola will have to field a team without 40 per cent of his outfield squad as well as his first choice goalkeeper.
Despite all that, City could still field the following XI: Ortega, Walker, Akanji, Dias, Gvardiol, Phillips, Silva, Foden, Grealish, Doku, Alvarez. It’s not the best, but it would certainly be competitive.
Rodri has not only returned to fitness but been fit enough to start Spain’s second game, so it is safe to assume he can play. The early noises around Haaland suggest he has a decent chance of making the weekend, and it is four years since Ederson last missed a City game through injury (funnily enough, just before City played Liverpool at Anfield).
Chuck those three in and you can field the same XI that started at Chelsea while keeping Grealish on the bench: Ederson, Walker, Akanji, Dias, Gvardiol, Rodri, Silva, Foden, Alvarez, Doku, Haaland. Crisis? What crisis?
The problem for City and Guardiola will not necessarily be against Liverpool, unless they need to turn to their bench. Aside from Grealish or Doku and another goalkeeper or two, Oscar Bobb is the only player definitely fit to take part.
Four games in the two weeks after the Liverpool match may be the bigger concern. City can afford to rest players in their Champions League match with RB Leipzig but that relies on them having squad options available to step in, while the first Premier League midweek of the season – a testing trip to in-form Villa – comes at a treacherous time.
Of course, City will hope that they have players coming back in this period as well but should be able to put a team out against Liverpool this weekend that isn’t too depleted – if at all – from the XI that lined up against Chelsea. The injuries may well go on to bite, but City can at least approach one of their biggest game of the season with most of their best players available.