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Talking Tactics: Pep needs solutions for missing Rodri and De Bruyne
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Dan Fitch
Kalvin Phillips started the Carabao Cup defeat to Newcastle
Kalvin Phillips started the Carabao Cup defeat to Newcastle

Manchester City's midfield is missing some key personnel, giving others the chance to shine. 

Rodri is suspended following his sending off against Nottingham Forest, presenting forgotten man Kalvin Phillips with a rare opportunity. 

Meanwhile, the long-term injury to Kevin De Bruyne has seen the Citizens experiment with different solutions to cope without their star playmaker. 

Ahead of City's trip to Wolves on Saturday, we examine Pep Guardiola's midfield options. 

Rodri absence

Phillips came on as a substitute after Rodri was dismissed against Forest and then started in the Carabao Cup defeat to Newcastle. 

It was only the fifth start that the former Leeds midfielder had made for the club since signing in July 2022. 

Phillips gave a solid performance against the Magpies but is always likely to suffer in comparison with Rodri, who has arguably developed into the finest defensive midfielder in Europe.

The Spaniard has a passing range and a physicality that the England international cannot compete with. 

Any hopes of Phillips being tasked with forming a double-pivot with Rodri has been hampered by Guardiola's tactical innovation. 

By asking defenders such as the injured John Stones or Rico Lewis — who started against Newcastle — to push up into midfield, there is no need for more than one specialist anchorman. 

Rodri was a key player for Manchester City last season
Rodri was a key player for Manchester City last season

Wolves selection

After the 1-0 loss at St James' Park, Guardiola was quizzed about Phillips' performance and his chances of continuing to deputise for Rodri. 

He said: "He played really good. Really, really good. 

"It's not easy when you have a lack of rhythm, lack of tempo or minutes. 

"Everyone has the chance. We have time now, come back, recovery, and we have time to think about it." 

Phillips' chances of ever gaining Guardiola's trust look slim but they could be categorised as non-existent if he were to be left out against Wolves. 

Matheus Nunes may face his former team, having started in the victories over Crvena zvezda and Forest. 

Another contender is Mateo Kovacic, who returned from a recent injury to play against Newcastle. 

Stones and Bernardo Silva are said to be close to fitness and could feature, though a place on the bench may be more likely than the starting line-up. 

De Bruyne injury

Kevin De Bruyne will not return to action until 2024
Kevin De Bruyne will not return to action until 2024

While Rodri will be back before long, De Bruyne is a long-term absentee. The Belgian is not expected to return until January. 

Guardiola does not have a midfielder that can replicate the qualities that the 32-year-old brings to the side. 

Summer signings Nunes and Kovacic are both more ball-carriers, rather than ball-players.

De Bruyne's injury was considered to be a chance for Phil Foden to play through the middle but all of his Premier League starts have come from the flanks. 

Instead, Guardiola has used Julian Alvarez just behind Erling Haaland. The striker's clever movement has seen him become a success in the role. 

He led the attack in the defeat against Newcastle and having played a high percentage of City's minutes this season, could be a candidate to be rested. 

Given De Bruyne's age and the increasing likelihood that he will suffer fitness issues, the Treble winners may have to find a more direct replacement in time. 

For now, Guardiola can be trusted to come up with a solution from the players at his disposal.


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