Manchester City start their defence of the Carabao Cup at home to Bournemouth on Thursday evening.
Just a little over six months ago Manchester City won the Carabao Cup at Wembley after beating Aston Villa and so much has changed in the months since. Covid has continued to ravage communities and inflict changes on every part of our lives, and the Carabao Cup Final still remains the last live football game I saw.
Now City have their first game to defend what has become their trophy in recent seasons. Yet this game has in many ways come too soon for City, with the first team depleted through quarantine and injury.
With as many as 7 first teamers absent and with an already shortened and disrupted pre season Pep Guardiola has already indicated he has no choice but to play many of the academy players against Bournemouth.
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So what can we expect from the game on Thursday night? Firstly we can expect City to line up and play in a familiar style. There may be wholesale changes of players but the system will remain.
Secondly, this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for some players to stake a claim for a glittering future, so expect players to try their very best.
Thirdly, we can expect to line up against a team from Bournemouth fielding more first team experience than we will, so there will be no surprises if a result evades us. This will be many of our young players facing off against some experienced professionals. All in all, it is set up to be an interesting and entertaining watch.
I for one am really looking forward to seeing some of our youth players lining up for City. The chance to see how well some players do against recently relegated Bournemouth will be a real eye opener.
So who can we expect to start?
In goal this should be a debut for USA International keeper Zack Steffen with the irrepressible Scott Carson on the bench.
Defence should be Taylor Harwood Bellis and Eric Garcia at centre back with youth players at full back. It is unlikely that Ake or even Walker will be risked.
Midfield should be anchored by a combination of Tommy Doyle and Adrian Bernabe. I am sure Guardiola would prefer to add some experienced support to these two but his options may be limited by recovery time from the Wolves game. Although the missing in action Patrick Roberts could even feature.
Up front we may even see Liam Delap leading the line, much to the excitement of the fans who have been raving about his goal scoring form in the Youth set up.
Supplementing these players should be some returning first team players – but Pep may even decide to keep these fresh for the Leicester game, in which case there could be a whole host of unexpected debuts for players such as Dionkou at full back and Cole Palmer in midfield.
All in all this should be an exciting and different City team. Let us hope they have the ability to get past Bournemouth and into the next round but I fear our grip on the Carabao may be loosened.