Pep Guardiola has got a massive dilemma on his hands for Manchester City’s match against Real Madrid on Tuesday.

City will come up against Madrid’s other giant club in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie at the Etihad and they will do so with severely depleted options in defence. Joao Cancelo is suspended for the match while John Stones and Kyle Walker are both massive doubts due to injury, with neither taking part in the Blues’ open training session on Monday afternoon.

On the pair, Guardiola said: “They are doubts, they didn’t train for the last week to ten days and John since Brighton. We’ll see how they feel, we’ll speak to them tomorrow and then make the decision.”

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City already have to play a makeshift back-line which will become even more unusual should neither of them make the match. Centre-back Nathan Ake has been filling in at left-back and is likely to continue in the spot, but there remains big question mark at right-back.

Guardiola could see either switch the versatile Aleks Zinchenko to the right, drop Fernandinho back into defence or play a youngster like CJ Egan-Riley. Considering the teenager’s lack of experience and the captain’s lack of pace, Zinchenko seems the most sensible decision.

Thankfully, the heart of defence shall be much more typical with Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte lining up in front of Ederson between the sticks. Guardiola will likely stick with his tried and trusted midfield trio of Rodri, Bernardo and Ilkay Gundogan, which he likes to deploy in Europe, to contend with the likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

That would see Kevin De Bruyne pushed up to the false nine role, with Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden probably on either flank. Dropping Gabriel Jesus after a four-goal haul at the weekend — as well as strong performances against Madrid in the past — may be harsh, but the manager has certain players he turns to for the biggest occasions.

Predicted City starting XI vs Real Madrid: Ederson; Zinchenko, Dias, Laporte, Ake; Bernardo, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden.



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