Three of Pep Guardiola’s first-team players aren’t at Manchester City, despite his return.
Due to injury, John Stones and Jack Grealish were not present with the England team; they are both expected to return during the international break. However, neither participated in any exercise on Thursday, indicating that they are still recovering from their individual muscle ailments.
Mateo Kovacic, who has missed the past two matches for Croatia due to a slight back issue, was also absent on Thursday. He may be in for a little period of time on the sidelines, according to reports in his home nation. Guardiola will update the media on the trio on Friday.
City’s midfield options are limited without Kovacic and Kevin De Bruyne, who is already sidelined. Although he has only trained with him for three days, Matheus Nunes, a recent addition to Guardiola’s squad, might be called up. Meanwhile, despite doing well for England on Tuesday, Kalvin Phillips has never been trusted in a difficult Premier League match.
Bernardo Silva, who can play in midfield and is adaptable to a variety of positions, will likely take Kovacic’s place. When chosen, Bernardo has, however, primarily played off the right wing and has excelled there. The wide choices are limited if Grealish is absent, and Jeremy Doku is probably going to play left again.
If Grealish and Kovacic are unavailable, Julian Alvarez might once again be required to play just behind Erling Haaland despite arriving from a high altitude qualifying match in Bolivia on Tuesday. This would only be owing to a lack of players.
That leaves Phil Foden, whose position has generated a lot of criticism when Gareth Southgate refused to commit to playing him centrally because he doesn’t play there for City – and there’must be a reason’ for that.
If Guardiola decides not to start Nunes or Phillips on Saturday against West Ham, there may be no choice but to play Foden in midfield. Foden and Bernardo will, at the at least, be chosen on the right and deeper in the middle, respectively.
Foden described that position drifting in off the right into the dual number ten system next to Alvarez as his favourite, and one he feels ‘alive’ in. He has looked good there this season, even if Southgate is reluctant to replicate that system.
With others injured, Guardiola may be forced to play Foden in a similar position in the coming week or so.