Manchester City: Picking the Ideal Starting XI to Beat Sporting
The unstoppable force that is Manchester City rolls into Lisbon this week, for their Europa League showdown with Sporting.
Mancini's men have won eight of their last 10 matches in all competitions, including a resounding victory of Sporting's Portuguese rivals FC Porto.
Being the first of two legs, the Blues' boss could be tempted to field a weakened side.
However, as we've seen all too often with English clubs in Europe recently, underestimating your opposition can be extremely dangerous.
Here's the starting XI that I believe will lead City to glory at the Estádio José Alvalade.
Since taking the No. 1 shirt back from Shay Given in 2010, Hart hasn't looked like dropping the ball since.
He's conceded a miserly 19 in 27 matches and kept more clean sheets than any other keeper in the Premiership (13).
With superb distribution and a great organiser of the defence, Hart is a stick-on for the goalkeeper position.
Powerful, pacey and assured, Richards is quickly establishing himself as one of the best right backs in world football.
Mancini kept him on the fringes initially, but the Englishman is now his first choice and is certain to get a seat on the England plane to the Euro's in the summer.
He's nursing a knock at the moment, but with Pablo Zabaleta out for two weeks, he will probably be risked in Lisbon.
The City and Belgium captain is a commanding presence at the back and is an essential part of Mancini's side.
A consistent performer, there's no doubt Kompany is in the upper echelons of European centre backs, and will certainly start in Lisbon.
When Kompany was out suspended in January, City really missed him, with Stefan Savic barely stepping up to the plate.
Kompany's regular partner in crime (and defence) Joleon Lescott looks set to start too, partly due to a lack of options.
I'm sure Mancini would be very keen to rest at least one of his centre halves in a mid-week fixture, but due to a lack of depth he'll almost certainly have to play both regular starters.
Lescott has started the joint second most games in the league for City this season (23) trailing only behind Joe Hart, and he will probably be favoured over Kolo Toure for the trip to Sporting.
The Serbian left back has only featured 10 times for City in the league this season, but there's a high chance that he could get the nod ahead of Gael Clichy.
With a tricky tie away to Swansea coming up at the weekend, the left back position is one of the areas that could well see some rotation from Mancini, with Kolarov more than capable to come in and do a job.
One of Sporting's main threats comes from their speedy Spanish right winger Diego Capel, and it will be the Serbian's job to keep him quiet, which will be no mean feat.
An integral part of the City team, the younger of the Touré brothers was sorely missed while on African Nations Cup duty in January.
With three goals in six European ties this season, there's no doubting his pedigree on the biggest of stages.
A true box-to-box midfielder, Yaya will definitely play a key role if City are to gain an advantage before heading back to the Etihad.
Barry's value to the City team is often overlooked, in favour of more flair-driven players like David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
However, the tireless midfielder does a lot of the donkey work that allows these players to show off their abilities further up the pitch.
A master at disrupting opposition attacks, as well as a superb passer of a football, Barry could be an important player on Thursday.
The Spanish playmaker started the season in scintillating form, lighting up the Premier League with his displays.
His form has wilted though since before the turn of the year, and has been a shadow of his former self.
But that's not to say he isn't playing well.
He's still a key player for City, and will be important going forward into the latter stages of the season.
Silva is often the key that unlocks opposition defences, and he could well break the Sporting defence on Thursday.
City's strength in depth in the wide areas has meant Johnson has spent much of the season warming the bench.
With only 10 league starts to his name this season, Mancini will probably take the opportunity to play the pacey winger.
With a good cross, and a wicked left foot, Johnson will be one of the most likely wingers to grab a place on the England plane to the Euros in the summer.
The Sporting full backs could be one area that City target in Lisbon, and if so, Johnson will be key.
The big Bosnian has been on the fringes for much of this season, pushed out by the favoured Sergio Aguero.
He started all but one of City's Champions League ties, bagging two assists but scoring no goals.
A real target man - dangerous in the air and talented with the ball at his feet - Dzeko could be picked to lead the line against a somewhat inept Sporting defence.
The big-money signing of the summer has surprised many in the English media with his instant impact in the Premier League.
However, to those of us who watch Spanish football it was hardly a shock — this is the man that single-handedly dismantled Barcelona for Athletico Madrid remember!
A versatile, dynamic, two-footed forward, Aguero's power and pace is matched only by his skill and dribbling ability.
A must-start in Lisbon, Aguero orchestrates City's matches with consummate ease - as 17 goals in the league will testify.