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UEFA Champions League

[OPINION] RB Leipzig Will Be An Experimental Ground For Pep

In what is expected to be a largely rotated lineup, Pep Guardiola has already stated that Kevin De Bruyne will start against RB Leipzig. Manchester City will finish their Champions League group stage campaign in Germany on Tuesday, confident in the knowledge that they have qualified ahead of Paris Saint-Germain.

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Guardiola has been afforded a rare opportunity to make multiple changes to his starting XI and rest several of his key players as a consequence of the dead rubber ahead of the frantic Christmas fixture season. Ferran Torres and Gabriel Jesus, who are both unavailable due to injury, as well as Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, and Rodri, who have all been granted time off to recover as the team's three finest players at the moment, have all stayed at home and will not be engaged in any way.

The encounter will provide an opportunity for City's returning talents to build additional fitness, and manager Pep Guardiola has stated that De Bruyne will start after making his comeback off the bench against Watford on Saturday following his recovery from Covid-19. In the win, both Jack Grealish and Phil Foden had their first starts since returning from injury, and both may hold their starting spots to continue to improve their fitness.

Guardiola will also be able to observe what some of his talented young players can achieve in a risk-free environment while still facing challenging competition, and Cole Palmer is expected to start. With Grealish and Riyad Mahrez surrounding him, he could line up in the midst of the assault. Foden would return to midfield for a one-off appearance, partnering De Bruyne and Fernandinho in the center.

To give Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte a rest, John Stones and Nathan Ake are very expected to start in the heart of the defense, with Aleks Zinchenko replacing Cancelo at left-back. Kyle Walker recovered from a knock on Saturday, so there's no reason to risk him in this match. Instead, Under-21s captain CJ Egan-Riley, a brilliant teenager, might be handed a chance.

There's also no reason not to make a change between the sticks, with Zack Steffen maybe getting a run-out to give Ederson a night off. With five substitutes allowed, Romeo Lavia, James McAtee, and Joshua Wilson-Esbrand might all see time.

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Bernardo Silva Gabriel Jesus Joao Cancelo Kevin De Bruyne RB Leipzig


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