How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Swansea

Mark JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2013

How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Swansea

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    In beating Liverpool and Crystal Palace at the Etihad Stadium between Christmas and New Year, Manchester City showcased the fact that they've worked out a different way of winning at home.

    Grinding out those victories in the face of adversity could be seen as inspiration for the club's troubling away record going into 2014, with Manuel Pellegrini doubtless delighted that he's seen his players dig deep and work hard when things aren't going their way.

    That determination should stand them in good stead ahead of a January which sees them go to Newcastle and Tottenham, but before that comes a New Year's Day trip to Swansea City.

    City have failed to win or even score a goal on both of their visits to the Liberty Stadium since the Swans' promotion to the Premier League in 2011, and so they'll know what is on the line in the first top-flight match of the New Year.

    Win, and they'll go back to the top of the tablefor a few hours at least.

    After resting several players against Palace, here is how Pellegrini could play it in South Wales.

     

Goalkeeper: Joe Hart

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    The bloodied face of Joe Hart became a symbol of the struggles that City had to go through to beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at the weekend, but despite the wound, the match certainly served the England stopper well.

    For the first time in a long time, Hart will have felt that he was a key contributor to his team's last two victories, and that will see his confidence levels soar.

    As he enters a year that could prove crucial in his career, he does so in good heart.

Defence: Pablo Zabaleta, Matija Nastasic, Vincent Kompany, Gael Clichy

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    The Palace win was also notable for the return of Matija Nastasic to the City defence for the first time since the 6-0 win over Tottenham in November, with the Serbian slotting back in alongside Vincent Kompany as if he'd never been away.

    The 90 minutes that both central defenders completed on Saturday could be among the most important of City's season, which will improve immeasurably with the continued availability of their first-choice central defensive partnership.

    Pablo Zabaleta was rested at the weekend and should return here, with Gael Clichy perhaps preferred on the left due to his added defensive responsibility over Aleksandar Kolarov.  

Midfield: Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, James Milner

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    Fernandinho's influence on this Manchester City team has been immense and impressive during what is still his first season in England.

    The Brazilian will be reunited with Yaya Toure in the centre of the pitch against Swansea, with the Ivorian returning to the team following his rest against Crystal Palace.

    That was the first Premier League match all season in which Toure didn't start, and here his impact will be crucial in a match in which the control of midfield will be crucial due to Swansea's attempts at passing their opponents to death.

    Ahead of him, David Silva is suspended and so James Milner should operate in the most advanced role behind what could be termed as a front three.

Attack: Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo, Samir Nasri

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    Along with Toure, both Alvaro Negredo and Samir Nasri were left out of the starting lineup against Palace, with both called upon 10 minutes into the second half as the cavalry was sent on by Pellegrini.

    Both the Spaniard and the Frenchman should return to the XI here, and while that might be seen as being harsh on Edin Dzeko, who provided the matchwinner against Palace, this change would surely benefit a team who will be desperate to get a result.

    With Jesus Navas retained on the right of an attacking trio, City undoubtedly have enough firepower to earn victory here.

Ready in Reserve

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    So, after his 50th goal for City, a return to the bench looks imminent for Dzeko.

    He'll feel both unfortunate and frustrated as he drops back down to a position in which he's spent far too much of his career at the club, but with FA and League Cup assignments coming up in the next few weeks, he is sure to get his chance again soon enough.

    The same applies to the likes of Javi Garcia and Dedryck Boyata, who started against Palace but are likely to drop back to the sidelines here.

     

How They'll Line Up

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    The experiment of playing both Negredo and Dzeko up front together didn't work at Fulham, and since then Pellegrini has reverted to one central striker with three attacking forces in support.

    Here, Negredo can play up top and be ably supported by Nasri, Milner and Navas as City bid for the perfect start to the New Year.

    Both Toure and Fernandinho will be required to get on top of the likes of Jonjo Shelvey in midfield, a task that won't be hampered by Michu's fondness for dropping deep due to the Spaniard's injury.

    With Swansea's main man absent and with Hart able to play behind arguably City's strongest back four available, an away win beckons.