Predicting Manchester City's Starting XI for 2012/13
There are many factors that will dictate Mancini's starting core on the 19th, including possible transfers in and out of Manchester, how Great Britain's team fares in the Olympics and of course injuries and early form.
With preseason friendlies already underway, there is a short sprint towards a title defense.
Here is my look at Manchester City's starting XI on opening day.
This pick goes without saying, Hart has proven that he can compete as one of the top keepers in the world for club and country alike. Despite City's star-filled lineup, Hart has won more than a few games for this English side.
Considering Zaba's late run of form to end the season, including his important goal against QPR and with Micah Richard competing in the Olympics, it is highly probably that Zabaleta will earn a first team start against Southampton.
This pick goes without saying, Kompany is this team's true leader. He is arguably the best central defender in the EPL and will start every game that he is healthy or fit for.
The combination of Lescott and Kompany was a rock (for the most part) last season. Combined city held opposition to only 29 goals last season. This was largely in part to this central pairing and of course, Joe Hart.
Kolarov has verbalized his desire to receive more playing time, and now it is time for Kolarov to make his dream come true. I believe that Kolarov will shine early this preseason and force Mancini to give him a nod for first kick.
Yaya Toure is what makes this squad complete. It was obvious in his absence in the African Cup of Nations that his skill, size and strength were thoroughly missed. Toure bosses the midfield and has a cannon of a shot. He is this team's leader in the middle of the park and is key to any success that City will have in 2012/13.
DM-Nigel De Jong
De Jong had a downright dreadful 2011/12 EPL season. He must turn around his plays this season and become the hard tackling player that we have come to expect. With Gareth Barry still recovering from an injury, and considering the quality in opposition, I fully expect De Jong to be able to prove his worth early.
Adam Johnson had some spectacular goals last season; however, he came off the bench more often than not.
Manchester City need a true winger, and at his best, Johnson is scary—running at defenders and showing confidence on the ball. At his worst he is practically invisible. I'm expecting Johnson to get an early look this season ahead of James Milner.
Manchester City became too one-dimensional last season; it became easy for teams to defend against them by simply plugging the box with as many bodies as possible. While City is skilled, they are no Barcelona; they need to use the wings and punish teams that are willing to sit back and wait for 90 minutes.
Silva had an outstanding season last year. He petered off near the end; however, he was a catalyst for creating attack. Silva still is indecisive of when to shoot or pass, but this young Spaniard is quickly becoming one of the best attacking-minded midfielders in the world.
Samir Nasri was criticized for having a poor season for City in his first year. However his statistics really aren't that bad. He tallied five goals and nine assists in 26 games last season. That was enough for him to be second behind Silva on the team in assists and seventh in scoring. While more is still expected from Nasri, he provides another strong attack for this squad.
Lastly, despite how the three other strikers are itching for action, I expect Sergio Aguero to get the start as the lone striker to open the season (likely with another coming on as a second-half sub). Aguero had a spectacular first season in the EPL and will always be remembered for his title winning goal in the last seconds of play against QPR.
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