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2 Players Who Are Fighting for Their Man City Futures in Final Weeks of Season

Rob Pollard@@RobPollard_Featured ColumnistMarch 26, 2016

Bayern Munich's Spanish head coach Pep Guardiola celebrates his team's victory after the extra time of the UEFA Champions League, Round of 16, second leg football match FC Bayern Munich v Juventus in Munich, southern Germany on March 16, 2016.
Bayern Munich won 4-2 and qualified for the quarter finals. / AFP / TOBIAS SCHWARZ        (Photo credit should read TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/Getty Images

With just a few weeks of the season remaining, clubs across Europe will be gearing up for the summer transfer window, and players are very much playing for their futures. Manchester City generally get their deals prepared well in advance, with players identified early and efficiently.

Txiki Begiristain, the club’s sporting director, and incoming manager Pep Guardiola will have had lengthy discussions about potential targets, and meetings with agents are already happening.

With Guardiola set to arrive amid huge expectation, he knows he needs to reshape a failing squad. There are likely to be significant changes to the makeup of the City team this summer.

And that means players departing, too. The current City squad have effectively been auditioning to be part of Guardiola’s revolution for the last few months. Some will make it; some definitely will not.

All their players are fighting to stay at the club and work under the most respected and sought-after manager in the game. But here are two who feel particularly vulnerable, who are likely to be doing everything they can in the final stages of the season to stay on and learn from the man who won 14 trophies in four years at Barcelona.

Eliaquim Mangala

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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 20:  Eliaquim Mangala of Manchester City reacts at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on March 20, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Matthew As
Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

City are considering selling Eliaquim Mangala in the summer transfer window and are expecting to make a significant loss on their initial £42 million outlay, according to Paul Hirst writing in the Times.

The City board are thought to be unhappy with the Frenchman’s performance since his arrival from Porto in 2014 and are now looking to restructure their defensive options.

The 25-year-old made a wonderful start to life at City, with a man-of-the-match display against Chelsea on his debut suggesting Begiristain, the club’s sporting director, had found an ideal long-term partner for Vincent Kompany.

However, that proved a false dawn, with his performances since then underwhelming at best.

According to the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor (warning: post contains profanity), David Moyes and his staff had watched Mangala extensively the season before he arrived in England and were unimpressed with his ability, describing as a mix between Joseph Yobo and Jean-Alain Boumsong.

Daniel Taylor @DTguardian

@dandrew919 @Malachians they also thought Mangala - and, genuinely, this wasn't couched as an insult - was 'cross between Boumsong and Yobo'

That analysis has proved incredibly accurate. Mangala is blessed with wonderful physical attributes, just as former Everton defender Yobo was, but struggles to read the game, much like Boumsong, one of Newcastle United’s biggest flops.

Mangala is quick, incredibly strong and possesses superb athleticism. In terms of pure natural attributes, you couldn’t ask for much more to work with. However, his positional sense, rashness and poor concentration too often negate those qualities.

He’s proved a flop. He gave away a penalty and scored an own goal away at Hull City in his second league game and never really recovered. There were signs as the back end of last season that he was settling, and he began this season well alongside Kompany. However, the Belgian’s injury problems saw him forced to the sidelines, and Mangala once again hit a rough patch.

He has barely played since January and was even left out of the 18-man squad for the recent trip to Norwich City. The writing, really, has been on the wall for some time.

With Kompany out after suffering another calf injury during the game with Dynamo Kiev, Mangala will get games between now and the end of the season. Can he muster a run of form that will convince Guardiola to keep faith and give him another season to prove himself?

Martin Demichelis is also likely to leave. He signed a one-year contract extension after an impressive 2014/15 season—but it’s turned out to be a mistake. His collapse has been spectacular, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if his derby-day shocker turns out to be his final game for the club.

Demichelis was given the runaround by teenager Marcus Rashford before being substituted before the hour mark. He looked old, short of pace and no longer fit for purpose. A bargain signing at £3.5 million in 2013, he has played his part, but the time has come for him to depart.

If both Demichelis and Mangala say goodbye to Manchester, it leaves City needing something of a defensive overhaul—perhaps Guardiola’s most pressing concern.

Aymeric Laporte could well be City’s top target. The Athletico Bilbao defender has impressed and, at 21, has plenty of time to develop further. However, a bad injury earlier this week playing for the France under-21 side leaves his immediate future in some doubt.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 20:  Gerard Moreno of RCD Espanyol competes for the ball with Aymeric Laporte of Athletic Club during the La Lga match between Real CD Espanyol and Athletic Club de Bilbao at Cornella-El Prat Stadium on March 20, 2016 in Barcelona
David Ramos/Getty Images

John Stones is another likely to be considered. However, his price is set to be astronomical. The new £5.1 billion Premier League TV deal, which comes into play this summer, means clubs are set to receive a significant windfall. The need for Everton to sell is minimal.

There are also concerns over his defending at present. He possesses remarkable composure and ball-playing ability, yet defensively, he has much to learn.

City need a centre-back ready to come and take control. With Kompany so unreliable now because of his calf complaints, a player who can come straight in and instantly perform at the level City need is required.

Aleksandar Kolarov

With all four of City’s full-backs now 30 or over and with Guardiola known for his high-energy game, there could be changes afoot.

Aleksandar Kolarov is perhaps the most vulnerable. His form this season hasn’t been good, and in recent weeks, he’s seen Gael Clichy overtake him and establish himself as City’s No. 1 left-back.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Aleksandar Kolarov of Manchester City during the Emirates FA Cup match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on February 21, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Clichy's homegrown status is appealing, but he is also a very good footballer, one who can play in a side looking to keep possession and play a slick passing game. He perhaps lacks the explosiveness Guardiola prefers in a full-back, but he's a more technically gifted player than Kolarov.

The Serb lacks nuance. He can provide quality delivers from wide areas and will always be a threat from set pieces, but City need more than that. Defensively, he lacks awareness, and he isn't quick enough to recover when he's caught out of position.

He could benefit from a move away, with Guardiola likely to be doing everything he can to find a younger, better alternative.

Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard.

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