Opinion: Pep Guardiola cannot afford to get complacent against Shakhtar Donetsk
As Manchester City get ready to host Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night at the Etihad Stadium, all eyes will be on what line-up manager Pep Guardiola picks before the game. The Catalan is widely known for his rotational policies and how often current form is neglected. However, Guardiola has been successful at what he is doing at City over the last two seasons and there is no reason believe that it wouldn't be the same this year too.
Pep's rotational policy was on display this Sunday when he relegated last week's goalscorer Riyad Mahrez to the bench to accommodate Raheem Sterling at the right wing. It was another one of those masterclasses as Sterling famously went on to net two goals and as many assists. But what must be going through Mahrez's mind? The idea is thought-provoking for sure. What we have seen so far, however, tells us that his rotational policy's benefits far outweigh its disadvantages.
On Wednesday, he is likely to make changes again but it must be stressed that Manchester City go all out against their opponents from Ukraine. Sergio Aguero needs to play and lend solidity to their attack and has to be backed by Leroy Sane/Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez in the wings. Providing cushion in the midfield will be Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Fernandinho.
One of the most crucial cogs in City's wheel is Brazilian Fernandinho. He is the lone defensive midfielder in a team full of attack-minded players. Hell, in some instances, even fullbacks Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker appear to be further up the pitch than where Fernandinho is. However, his importance cannot be understated. He shields the defence and takes one or two for the team whenever it is required.
Fernandinho often drops behind as a third centre-back to lend support to John Stones and Co. and Pep Guardiola could not be happier with his ward. He is widely respected and is the pivot on which City functions. Fernandinho is someone Guardiola would pick day in and day out.
Having said that, Guardiola cannot afford to become complacent and it is vital that he goes all-out against Shakhtar Donetsk and seal Manchester City's place in the next round of the Champions League.