Manchester City return to competitive action on Thursday when they face Liverpool in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
Given the World Cup break, predicting Pep Guardiola’s starting XI is almost impossible, although he did confirm in his pre-match press conference that world champion Julian Alvarez would not be involved as he continues to celebrate Argentina’s triumph.
Those who didn’t travel to Qatar should play some part against Liverpool, which includes the likes of Erling Haaland, Riyad Mahrez, Sergio Gomez and Cole Palmer. Meanwhile, Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan played in Saturday’s friendly win over Girona, with Aymeric Laporte, Nathan Ake, Manuel Akanji and Rodri having since been back in training.
City’s England and Portugal players are also expected to return imminently, but Guardiola hinted in his press conference that he’ll use the match to give minutes to those who weren’t in Qatar.
“Step by step the people come back. Today six players come back for the first time,” the Catalan revealed. “We are happy they are back and, in general, they play really well. They lived an incredible experience, the World Cup is a unique experience. Let them try and come back as soon as possible.
“I have a feeling that the players at the World Cup are in better condition than the players who were here,” Guardiola added. “Sergio, Erling, Riyad, Cole, they miss a little bit of rhythm compared to Manuel Akanji, Rodri, Ayme and Nathan since they came back.
“They compete and they train every day and we had holidays. That’s why tomorrow is important for the rhythm for the players who were not at the World Cup.”
Ederson has not yet returned to City and won’t play on Wednesday, meaning Stefan Ortega Moreno is expected to start in nets for the Premier League champions.
Liverpool team news
Three Reds will definitely miss the match through injury - Arthur Melo, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz - while Curtis Jones and Calvin Ramsay are doubts with knocks. Meanwhile, Ibrahima Konate won’t make the trip to Manchester having played for France in Sunday’s World Cup final and has been granted additional time away from the club.
Liverpool had fewer players at the World Cup in comparison to City, but of those who were in Qatar, the majority have returned to training. Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Darwin Nunez, Alisson, Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk are back, although the latter is not expected to start at the Etihad.
“Hendo is already training here. Virg is training here, but I don’t think we will try that. Hendo we will see, Trent we will see,” Klopp said last week, after Liverpool’s friendly win over AC Milan.