It’s been an excellent 10 days for Manchester City.
A fantastic 3-2 win over Bayern Munich saw them finish their Champions League group with 15 points, qualifying for second place in a last of 16 match with Barcelona. They beat Arsenal 6-3 in one of the finest Premier League matches of all time, cutting The Gunners’ lead at the top of the table to just 3 points. Then on Tuesday they won 3-1 away at Leicester to book their place in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup.
This weekend they travel to Craven Cottage for a match with 19th placed Fulham. It’s an opportunity to draw level on points with Arsenal and put serious pressure on them ahead of their home game with Chelsea on Monday night.
Seven wins and a draw in their last eight matches in all competitions is fabulous form, and City won’t want their progress halting by a side who look disjointed so far this season.
Fulham sacked manager Martin Jol after a 3-0 defeat at Upton Park at the end of November with the club in 18th position, and new manager Rene Meulensteen has seen his side win one and lose two of his opening three games—with last weekend’s 4-1 defeat at Everton their 11th league reverse of the season.
City are likely to stick with Costel Pantilimon in goal, with Joe Hart remaining on the bench. Pantilimon is yet to show he is anywhere near the level City require, but he hasn't made an error of any serious magnitude in the games he's played. Until that happens, expect to see him between the posts.
Right-back is all of a sudden City’s problem position after injuries to Micah Richards and Pablo Zabaleta (via Manchester Evening News). Dedryck Boyata replaced Zabaleta when he left the field early at the King Power Stadium, but James Milner could be the man Pellegrini calls upon to fill in on Saturday. Milner is in fabulous form and has the attributes to play right-back.
Matija Nastasic remains sidelined, so Pellegrini is likely to opt for his preferred centre-back pairing of Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis. Gael Clichy will almost certainly start at left-back.
Fernandinho, who has had a superb season and continues to improve each week, will start alongside Yaya Toure in midfield. Those two are forming an exceptional partnership—arguably the best in the league. As football moves away midfielders who solely play the "Makelele Role," City have two of the best box-to-box players in Europe.
From there, the picture is less clear. Sergio Aguero's injury could see a slight formation tweak. City have the option of either replacing Aguero with Edin Dzeko, playing him alongside Alvaro Negredo in a two pronged attack, or they can move David Silva into a central role just off Negredo, and play Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas out wide.
A central role for Silva, much like the one he occupied in Munich, seems likely. Silva has shown many times in the past that he is comfortable playing a withdrawn role just off the frontman—it's a position he thrives in.
Expected City XI:
Pantilimon; Milner, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Fernandinho, Toure; Navas, Nasri; Silva; Negredo.
Even with injuries to key players such as Zabaleta, Aguero and Nastasic, City should have more than enough to beat Fulham and keep their title charge running at pace.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.