Failing to participate in Manchester City’s recent victory over Young Boys, Phil Foden is dealing with a minor issue, casting uncertainty on his availability for the upcoming Manchester derby.
Guardiola might have decided to rest Foden as a preventive measure, and he is expected to provide a comprehensive update on the squad’s health this Friday. Julian Alvarez was another player who didn’t start in Switzerland, as he ‘wasn’t able to complete a full 90 minutes,’ though he did make a substitute appearance and had a goal incorrectly ruled out.
Assuming both are in good health, they would likely feature in the starting XI against Manchester United this Sunday. Nevertheless, City is unlikely to gamble with Foden’s long-term health for the derby. If he isn’t completely fit, City has adequate backup for his inverted winger position.
In the midfield, Bernardo Silva is anticipated to return, potentially taking the place of either Mateo Kovacic or Matheus Nunes. If Alvarez is fit enough for a full game, he too could be back in the starting line-up.
Examining the team’s previous matches against Brighton and Arsenal provides insight into Foden’s potential position; he would likely play on the wing, cutting inside to adopt a second number ten role, alongside Alvarez.
The return of Rodri from suspension and the availability of John Stones to join him in midfield should provide a more balanced setup than in the Arsenal match. Jack Grealish demonstrated his talent at Young Boys, and Jeremy Doku maintained his impressive form, although Guardiola expressed concerns last week about Doku’s ability to handle a game every three days.
Rico Lewis, who has been making a name for himself in significant away games, might seize this opportunity to contribute to winning the midfield battle in the derby.
“Today he plays where he normally plays, full-back coming inside,” was Guardiola’s assessment of Lewis after his UEFA Player of the Match performance on Wednesday. “In that position, he is a master, so intelligent. His short passing game with Rodri, Ruben was incredible.”
Earlier this month, Lewis excelled in a midfield trio with Rodri and Foden in Leipzig, earning him a starting spot against Arsenal. In that game, Bernardo stayed wide, creating space for Lewis to exploit. Despite being only 18, Lewis shows maturity beyond his years, evident in his reaction to playing a part in Young Boys’ goal this week.
Although Kyle Walker is likely to reclaim his position at right-back for the United clash, doubts over Foden, Alvarez, and Doku could open up a spot for another midfielder. This week, Guardiola praised Kovacic and Nunes, but acknowledged they didn’t have the same impact as Lewis.
Guardiola has previously opted not to use Lewis in the last season’s three derbies, yet he has shown willingness to throw the young player into high-pressure situations. The derby could be the biggest challenge of Lewis’ young career, but given his track record, there’s every chance he could rise to the occasion.