After their impressive 2-0 opening-day victory over Newcastle at St James' Park, Manchester City's next Premier League test is even tougher. Liverpool are the visitors to the Etihad on Monday evening, with City keenly aware that a win against a title rival so early in the season would lay down a significant marker to the rest of the league.
Manuel Pellegrini, the City boss, is well-aware of the importance of the game, saying in his press conference at Carrington on Friday:
It is important for us as we are just starting the season and maybe we don’t have our whole squad in the best fitness moment, but I think this week we work very hard and very well, so I hope we can do a very good game and win the three points.
The Chilean, though, has a number of selection issues ahead of the game. City's impressive summer transfer window, which saw them sign Bacary Sagna, Fernando, Eliaquim Mangala and Willy Caballero, means Pellegrini now has huge strength in depth.
His options run deep, and picking his first XI will be tough, but with many of his players still not 100 percent after a summer interrupted by World Cup involvement, he'll be glad of the options for the game against Liverpool.
City finally have some competition in the goalkeeper department after the signing of Caballero from Malaga. Joe Hart for too long has been unchallenged at both club and international level, and Pellegrini will hope his form improves as a result.
Hart has been given the nod to start the season as the club's No.1, and he is very likely to start against Liverpool after keeping a clean sheet in his last match.
Gael Clichy has started City's last two matches—against Arsenal in the Community Shield and Newcastle in the league—at right-back, but he is unlikely to play in what is an unfamiliar role for much longer. Pablo Zabaleta, who has so far been rested after his involvement deep into the World Cup, will likely start this one.
At centre-back, the absence of Eliaquim Mangala, who is still searching for match fitness, means Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis will keep their places, with Aleksandar Kolarov almost certain to play at left-back.
Who plays in midfield depends on Pellegrini's formation. If he decides to go with a three-man midfield, then Fernando, Fernandinho and Yaya Toure will all play, with Toure in an advanced role. If he sticks with his 4-2-2-2 system, then one would have to make way.
It's likely Pellegrini will go with his preferred, more attacking system, and Fernando's tendency to sit much deeper may see him preferred to Fernandinho, but it's a tight call.
Samir Nasri and David Silva will start in the wide positions and will be asked to drift inside to support two forwards. With Sergio Aguero's goal and general sharpness during his cameo at Newcastle, he may very well start, with Edin Dzeko likely to keep his place after a superb display last weekend.
Manchester City (4-2-2-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Fernando, Toure; Nasri, Silva; Dzeko, Aguero.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2014-15 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_
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