Kingdom - Manchester
City manager Pep
Guardiola returns to the touchline for the Premier League
champions' visit to Cardiff
City looking for his team to recover from a shock midweek
home defeat to Lyon.
The City manager, serving a
one-match UEFA suspension for being sent to the stands in last season's
quarter-final defeat to Liverpool, watched in horror from the stands as a
dismal first-half display led to defeat against the French side.
After accumulating 100 points in
the Premier League last season, winning the Champions League for the first time
in City's history is the next goal for Guardiola.
Yet, an unexpected defeat to
begin their European campaign exposed City's failure to add reinforcements to
arguably the only area of the pitch where they lack genuine strength in depth.
Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho
has been inspirational for City in his five seasons in the Premier League but
he was at fault in the build-up to both Lyon goals on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old may be due a
break in the Welsh capital this weekend having played every minute of City's
seven games so far in the new campaign
But Guardiola has no natural
replacement after missing out on his pursuit of Chelsea midfielder Jorginho,
who instead chose to follow his former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri to Stamford
City's failure to land an
alternative has seen Guardiola enter the new season short of cover for a
crucial position in his 4-3-3 system.
Instead, City spent a club record
fee on further strengthening their attacking options, signing Algerian winger
Riyad Mahrez from Leicester for 60 million (67.5m euros).
Despite the loss of Belgian
playmaker Kevin De Bruyne through injury, Mahrez has started just two league
games so far and not yet completed a full 90 minutes for Guardiola.
Magnificent in Leicester's
title-winning season of 2015-16, Mahrez is not the first new signing to have
required time to adapt to Guardiola's demanding ways.
But, in hindsight, a different
type of midfield player might have been a better acquisition for City this
summer even if his manager has no doubts that he will prove a long-term success
at his club.
"Riyad is going to come back
to the same form we saw when he was with Leicester," insisted Guardiola,
citing Bernardo Silva's stunning start to the campaign after a year to bed into
Silva scored his side's goal in midweek
and is likely to retain his place, but Guardiola is expected to make changes in
his search for a reaction against a Cardiff side still looking for their first
victory since returning to the top flight.
Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane are
expected to return after impressing off the bench against Lyon.