Selection dilemma as Guardiola seeks silver lining

LONDON • Pep Guardiola faces a selection headache for today's FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough as the Manchester City manager juggles the demands of vying for silverware on two fronts.

The Spaniard must decide how many key players to risk at the Riverside Stadium, with a Champions League last-16 second leg clash against Monaco four days later.

The FA Cup offers the more realistic prospect of Guardiola's first trophy with City, but he will find his skills tested to the limit in what is a defining week for City's season.

His most recent attempt at squad rotation failed when he decided to start Wednesday's Premier League home game against Stoke without his two most creative players.

David Silva was a substitute and Raheem Sterling was rested altogether as City drew 0-0, leaving them 10 points behind Chelsea.

Guardiola has rested players for each of City's FA Cup games so far, but there are signs that he is taking the competition more seriously the further he progresses.

CRUNCH TIME

We've got two games now where we need all the players. We have to try to do the business.

YAYA TOURE, Manchester City midfielder, on having to up their game against Middlesbrough, then Monaco, despite a leaner squad to call upon owing to injuries.

Claudio Bravo, now the second-choice goalkeeper for league games, has come back in for the last two FA Cup ties and should play again at the Riverside Stadium, while full-back Pablo Zabaleta has also been used in the competition.

Perhaps the biggest question revolves around striker Sergio Aguero, who scored twice in the 5-3 first-leg win against Monaco and is City's best hope of an away goal.

Guardiola cannot afford an injury to the striker, and so may decide to field Kelechi Iheanacho against Middlesbrough instead.

City midfielder Yaya Toure said: "We've got two games now where we need all the players. We have to try to do the business. Middlesbrough is going to be a tough, tough game. We'll try to do our best."

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka insists he has the full backing of chairman Steve Gibson despite seeing his side drop into the relegation zone for the first time this season after a 10-game winless Premier League run.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Selection dilemma as Guardiola seeks silver lining'. Print Edition | Subscribe