Manchester City left-back Benjamin Mendy is expected to be on the sidelines for seven months after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, but the world’s most expensive defender’s absence may not be the disaster it sounds.
City supremo Pep Guardiola shipped out four full-backs over the summer and spent the best part of £130m bringing in three brand new ones in Mendy, Kyle Walker and Danilo.
Guardiola also has the option of playing Fabian Delph at left-back away to Premier League champions Chelsea, after the defensive midfielder excelled in the role throughout the 2-0 win at home to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.
Injuries may have disrupted the Catalan’s best laid plans for the flying Citizens, whose last top-flight defeat came in this fixture almost six months ago.
However, the absence of City’s most celebrated senior stars shows a glimpse of the future under the fashion-conscious 46-year-old.
Sergio Aguero’s broken rib, sustained in a midweek taxi crash on the way back from an Amsterdam concert, means a reconfiguring of the attack is in the offing at Stamford Bridge.
Young hitman Gabriel Jesus was afforded a full rest during his side’s 5-0 thumping of Crystal Palace last time out domestically.
Jesus will surely lead the line away to Antonio Conte’s crowd, with fellow Guardiola buys Leroy Sane, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva all pushing to start alongside stalwarts David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Fernandinho.
De Bruyne is the only ‘holdover’ from former boss Manuel Pellegrini’s time at the Etihad who is both under 29 and assured of a first-team place, a testament to City’s recent recruitment policy.
Frequently-crocked club captain Vincent Kompany should regain his place from either John Stones or Nicholas Otamendi when fit, but Yaya Toure looks to have been replaced by a combination of Gundogan and De Bruyne.
Fernandinho, just two years younger than the Ivorian at 32, will be under pressure for his holding-midfield spot every time he steps onto the pitch.
Even Aguero, who’s two goals away from becoming City’s all-time top scorer after just six-and-a-bit seasons in Manchester, was left out of the starting lineup in more than a third of his side’s Premier League fixtures last term, despite a relatively injury-free campaign.
They may be missing a few high-class old stagers, but City’s XI against Chelsea will be almost exactly how Guardiola wants it.