How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Watford

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2014

How Manchester City Will Line Up Against Watford

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    Having qualified for the final of one domestic cup competition, Manchester City's assault on the other continues with their FA Cup fourth-round clash with Watford at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

    Of course, City go into the clash as huge favourites, with almost everyone expecting Watford to be the latest team on the receiving end of a heavy beating in east Manchester this season.

    The Hornets lost 3-0 at City in the third round of the FA Cup last January, but since then the Citizens have seemingly gone up several levels.

    Manuel Pellegrini is likely to name a team with next Wednesday's big Premier League clash at Tottenham in mind, but there is little doubt that the XI he chooses will certainly be packed with quality.

    Here is the team he could pick.

Goalkeeper: Costel Pantilimon

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    The Romanian played in both matches against Blackburn in the last round and in both legs of the Capital One Cup semi-final against West Ham—a run in the team which actually means that he's started more games than Joe Hart in 2014.

    Pantilimon is still restricted to the cup competitions, though.

    He'll already have one eye on the Wembley showpiece that City are set for on March 2, but he'll also know that progression in this competition is key for him, too.

    City should progress, of course, and their goalkeeper could have a quiet day. 

Defence: Micah Richards, Matija Nastasic, Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy

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    It is highly likely that Pellegrini only decided to keep Joleon Lescott around for this precise run of fixtures, with his mind perhaps made up when City were taken to a replay by Blackburn in the FA Cup.

    The Englishman has since played in both fixtures against Blackburn and both against West Ham, and he should take his place in the team again here as his manager preserves his current No. 1 partnership of Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis for the Premier League.

    Matija Nastasic could start alongside Lescott, with Gael Clichy starting again at left-back as Aleksandar Kolarov is protected. Meanwhile, Micah Richards could come in for Dedryck Boyata at right-back. 

Midfield: Fernandinho, Jack Rodwell, Jesus Navas, Marcos Lopes

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    Jack Rodwell got a rare half-hour in the City team in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final against West Ham, and he could get an even rarer starting spot here.

    The Englishman's long-term future at City must still be clouded in doubt, and surely it is in his best interests to leave in the summer. In any case, he could start here alongside the metronomic influence of the Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho, who never seems to want a rest.

    Portuguese youngster Marcos Lopes made his first start for City and impressed at Upton Park, and he could stay in the team against opponents who he made his senior debut against last season, scoring within seconds of coming on.

    In the absence of the injured Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas has taken on a more important role in the City squad and should make another start on the right. 

Attack: Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko

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    Now he's back and firing in the goals, it would make sense for Pellegrini just to keep on picking Sergio Aguero.

    The Argentine will be desperate to make up for lost time after missing out on a month through injury, and he could lead the line again at the Etihad Stadium after two substitute appearances were followed by his midweek start at Upton Park.

    Typically, he scored in all three games.

    Strike partner Alvaro Negredo picked up an apparent shoulder problem in that match, so the Citizens will likely turn to Edin Dzeko to start, just as he did against these opponents in the cup last season. 

Ready in Reserve

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    He's back!

    Stevan Jovetic returned from his long spell out of the City team to play the final 25 minutes in place of Aguero at West Ham, and we could see a similar introduction from the bench here as City fans finally get to see more of the player their club paid £22 million for in the summer.

    Should this be the lineup, then Dedryck Boyata and Javi Garcia will have dropped out of the side following the West Ham game, and we could also see another appearance by young Welshman Emyr Huws after he made his City debut in the win over Blackburn in the last round. 

How They'll Line Up

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    It could be a familiar formation for City, with just three changes to the lineup that won at West Ham—one in each area of the pitch.

    Micah Richards could return at right-back in place of Dedryck Boyata, a player who will only see his chances in the City team become more restricted the longer his club progress in cup competitions.

    Jack Rodwell could replace Javi Garcia in midfield, with Edin Dzeko coming in for Alvaro Negredo in attack.

    As always with City, the movement of the two wide players—in this instance, Marcos Lopes and Jesus Navas—will be key in their pursuit of goals.

    Something you suspect they are going to get a lot of on Saturday afternoon.