How Man City should line up vs Aston Villa on Premier League final day – Stuart Brennan
Pep Guardiola could have Kyle Walker and John Stones back for Manchester City’s Premier League finale against Aston Villa on Sunday.
Both Walker and Stones were originally ruled out for the season, but were back in training this week and will be assessed ahead of this afternoon’s final game with Villa. City know that a win will crown them Premier League champions, with anything less allowing Liverpool the chance to overtake them.
Ruben Dias is likely to be ruled out, but Guardiola suggested that there were no other injury concerns ahead of the final day. In the last couple of fixtures, Fernandinho has been deployed at centre-back to cover the injuries to Stones, Dias and Walker.
Guardiola must also decide which attackers to play, with plenty in form and only one game to secure the title. Jack Grealish may hope to feature against his former club, with a first Premier League title on offer.
Read how our writers think City should line up below and use the interactive team selector to pick your own starting XI:
The possible return of Walker and Stones is a major boost, and if they are fit enough to start they should both do so. Ake has not been deemed fit enough to play, and having Stones and Laporte gives a nice right-foot, left-foot balance to central defence, while Walker’s pace could be crucial against a likely Villa counter-attack strategy.
Further forward, the midfield almost picks itself, although it is tempting to pick Gundogan, as he gives such a degree of control – and that would mean shifting Bernardo Silva into the front three as dropping him is unthinkable.
Gundogan should be held back as a useful substitute in a game that needs winning. The front three need goals and work-rate, and that means Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez wide and Gabriel Jesus to work the centre backs.
Pick your best team here:
If there’s a chance that John Stones and Kyle Walker can play, it is 100 per cent worth the gamble for City. Even if they can only give the team an hour, the impact of that hour will be huge.
The midfield three picks itself and contains probably City’s three best players of the season: Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri. Ilkay Gundogan is more than useful as an option, but finds himself unfortunately behind those that trio of outstanding players in top form.
Up front is where the hardest decisions are to be made. Raheem Sterling was brilliant in the reverse fixture and his direct running always threatens defenders. Phil Foden is probably the one most guaranteed of a start for what he brings to the team.
The season would suggest Riyad Mahrez has to start, but I’d be tempted to throw Jack Grealish in against his former club. Grealish has been in his best form of the season, and has the character that would relish making the difference in such a big match.
If John Stones is fit, he’s needed more than Kyle Walker, with Nathan Ake available to replace him if he’s rushed back too soon. Aleks Zinchenko and Joao Cancelo have done well recently, so a half-fit Walker isn’t worth the risk on Sunday.
Guardiola will likely turn to his experienced players for this ‘final’, and that could mean Ilkay Gundogan coming in – especially after his masterclass on the final day in 2019. I’d push Bernardo or Kevin De Bruyne forward into the false nine position, in the same way City line up in the Champions League.
That means one less attacker, so it could help simply to go for the best winger on either side rather than any tactical experiments. Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez can start, with Jack Grealish ready off the bench and with a point to prove, plus Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus all available.