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Manchester City: Fernandinho set to start at centre-back against Shakhtar Donetsk

Manchester City: Fernandinho set to start at centre-back against Shakhtar Donetsk

Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho could be deployed at centre-back for tomorrow night’s Champions League match away to Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Daily Mail reported that Pep Guardiola is set to play the Brazil international in the centre of defence in place of either John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi.

In the Daily Mail, Jack Gaughan described Manchester City’s defensive performance in their 3-2 defeat to Norwich last Saturday as a “shambolic capitulation” which featured some “horrendous mistakes“.

The Premier League champions’ defensive options have been limited by the long-term knee injury incurred by Aymeric Laporte against Brighton in August, with The Guardian reporting that he will miss six months as a result.

The performances of centre-half pair Stones and Otamendi against Norwich came under scrutiny on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football (MNF) this week.

During Sky Sports’ MNF programme, a graphic was displayed showing the statistical shortcomings of the duo when compared with the four other centre-back combinations used by Guardiola at Manchester City.

As per Sky Sports, when Stones and Otamendi have played together at centre-back, the Premier League champions have conceded more goals per game (1.1) and had lower clean sheet (36%) and win (68%) percentages than with any other centre-back pairing under Guardiola.

Earlier this month, Fernandinho told I News that he was confident in his ability to play at centre-back if called upon to do so by Guardiola.

The 34-year-old has made 274 appearances for Manchester City but played at centre-back just four times, and one of those was when he replaced Laporte in the 4-0 win against Brighton last month.

Coincidentally, the ex-Shakhtar Donetsk man has previously played at centre-back against his former club, being deployed there in a 2-1 defeat for Manchester City in December 2017.

Fernandinho gave a tidy if unspectacular performance when coming on against Brighton, with two successful aerial duels, four clearances, one interception and a passing success rate of 93.3%. [via WhoScored.com]

In the defeat at Norwich, Stones and Otamendi won five aerial duels each but made just one successful tackle and no interceptions between them, with the latter fatefully dispossessed by Emiliano Buendia in the lead-up to Norwich’s third goal, as reported by Sky Sports.

After Vincent Kompany left the club at the end of last season, Guardiola would have known he was then down to three senior centre-backs in Stones, Laporte and Otamendi. Having failed to bring in a centre-back during the summer, it seemed reasonably foreseeable that Manchester City could have been left very light in this area and so it has proven.

Guardiola can be glad that he has a versatile player like Fernandinho who can adapt to a centre-back role if needed. While he may be worth utilising in that position against Shakhtar Donetsk tomorrow night, especially with summer signing Rodri frequently starting ahead of him in defensive midfield, it is hardly the most ideal scenario for Manchester City so early in the season.

Manchester City fans, do you think Fernandinho should start ahead of Stones and/or Otamendi at centre-back against Shakhtar Donetsk? Comment below with your views!

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