How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Sunderland

Tim OscroftContributor INovember 8, 2013

Samir Nasri has been in sublime form of late.
Samir Nasri has been in sublime form of late.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

City travel over the Pennines to Wearside full of vim and vigour following their 7-0 demolition of Norwich City in the Premier League last Saturday, with Tuesday's 5-2 win over CSKA Moscow with the same starting 11 adding to the good vibes in the blue half of Manchester.

But what changes will Manuel Pellegrini make for Sunday's meeting with the struggling Black Cats? There'll be at least one due to injury—more of that later—but who will the Chilean opt for at the Stadium of Light?

Here's who I think will start for the Blues:

Costel Pantilimon; Pablo Zabaleta, Matija Nastasic, Martin Demichelis, Aleksandar Kolarov; Javi Garcia, Yaya Toure; Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero, Jesus Navas; Alvaro Negredo.

Pantilimon has not let anyone down yet since his upgrade in favour of Joe Hart, and I think the lanky Romanian will retain his place.

The Hart/England debate is, in terms of City, irrelevant and it looks like Hart will have to up his game in training to get back into the frame for his club.

No way back for Micah Richards just yet?
No way back for Micah Richards just yet?Warren Little/Getty Images

At the back, Zabaleta would merit a rest, and Micah Richards would be happy to get his place back but, for now, the nuggety Argentine stays at right back.

City's central defence looked shaky at times again in midweek, and there is an argument for Richards slotting in there—the England international did OK in that position earlier in his City career.

However that would be a tinkering too far, and Blues fans will be hoping skipper Vincent Kompany is back soon, even if the prognosis on his calf injury says a few more weeks yet.

Gael Clichy is a long way from the player who helped City to the Premier League title in his first season with the club, and Aleksandar Kolarov should be back at left-back.

Pellegrini reported that Fernandinho had a "small problem" after CSKA, and with plenty of cover in midfield I think the Brazilian will not be risked on Sunday.

That will mean a return for Javi Garcia, and while James Milner could do a job in central midfield, the Spanish player seems to be Pellegrini's preferred option. It also looks like Jack Rodwell is a long way off the Premier League team for City.

David Silva is out for four weeks, but as good as the mercurial Spain international is, this is not the hammer blow it could have been. That's because Jesus Navas can replace him, and because Samir Nasri's outstanding form could mean Silva's trickery may not be missed that badly.

Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo are a deadly pairing up front.
Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo are a deadly pairing up front.Michael Steele/Getty Images

Again, Milner could be the alternative, especially in a shoring-up capacity against pumped-up, relegation-battling opponents like Sunderland. But it seems the Yorkshireman's more prosaic talents are destined to be displayed off the bench at the moment, given his decent contribution against CSKA.

Up front, it's simple. Aguero and Negredo go together like a horse and carriage, Cagney and Lacey, gin and tonic and any other combination that works well that you care to mention.

That's tough on Edin Dzeko, who has six goals from his limited opportunities this season, but the Bosnian will have to make do with the odd cameo appearance for now. 

But, with City having won just once on the road in the Premier League under Pellegrini, it's no sure thing, and Gus Poyet seems to have instilled some belief in his new charges. 

What do you think? Get in touch on Twitter @br_uk, or you can get in touch @TimOscroft.