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Sergio Gomez in attack, Oscar Bobb to start – Predicted XI: Crvena zvezda vs Manchester City (UEFA Champions League)

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Manchester City conclude their Champions League group stage campaign with an away trip to Belgrade, as they face Crvena zvezda on matchday six this Wednesday evening.

It has been a flawless start to City’s bid to retain the UEFA Champions League trophy lifted in Istanbul back in June, with Crvena zvezda now the only side remaining with the opportunity of damaging the 100% record.

Although an invincible group stage campaign may be in the sights of Manchester City, their priorities are expected to lie elsewhere, with the FIFA Club World Cup approaching rapidly, as top spot in the group is already secured.

It has been a rocky couple of weeks for last season’s Treble winners, but victory at Luton Town on Sunday afternoon managed to steer the ship back on track, with the club currently sitting fourth in the Premier League table.

Red Star Belgrade will be playing for pride on Wednesday night, with the Serbian club guaranteed to finish bottom of Group G, sitting on a single point sustained at home to BSC Young Boys earlier in the campaign.

Pep Guardiola and Manchester City have confirmed that Erling Haaland will not feature in Belgrade this week, after the Norwegian missed the game on Sunday due to a recurring foot problem sustained on international duty last month.

Ederson will also be unavailable on Wednesday evening after the goalkeeper was absent from training on Tuesday due to illness, with the Brazilian stopper having not travelled with the squad as a precautionary measure.

Despite the lack of importance on the match, it does offer a good opportunity for crucial minutes for some players, and with that being said, here is the squad we think will close out the group stage campaign against Crvena zvezda.

Predicted XI

Stefan Ortega Moreno will start the game in the absence of Ederson, earning himself some quality minutes at the very top level of European football ahead of the start of an FA Cup campaign that he is also set to feature in.

We expect Rico Lewis to start this one originally from the right-back role, giving a needed rest to Kyle Walker, but we could very easily see the England international filter into the defensive midfield position.

Wednesday evening offers a crucial opportunity for John Stones to get some more minutes in as he works his way back to full match sharpness, and we expect the Englishman to start this one alongside Manuel Akanji in central defence.

Josko Gvardiol started the game at Kenilworth Road on Sunday afternoon and we expect the Croatia international to retain that slot in Pep Guardiola’s defensive line, completing the Manchester City rearguard.

It has been a turbulent time in Manchester for Kalvin Phillips to say the least, but we expect the out-of-favour midfielder to finally start this match in what could very well be his last game for the club, with rumours of a January move circulating.

Matheus Nunes came off the bench to feature during the closing exchanges against Luton at the weekend, but we expect the Portuguese man to start from the off in this one, partnering fellow summer signing Mateo Kovacic in front of Kalvin Phillips.

Wednesday evening also offers another golden opportunity for breakthrough academy star and now senior Norway international Oscar Bobb to showcase his quality. We think the 20-year-old will start this one on the right of a front three.

Following the emergence of early team news on social media, we believe Phil Foden could be the centre-point of the attacking trio but operating largely from a false-nine role against Crvena zvezda on Wednesday.

It is safe to say that Sergio Gomez has not quite grasped his place in the Manchester City side since arriving from RSC Anderlecht in the summer of 2022, but we think the Spaniard starts this one to complete the starting XI.

Predicted XI: Ortega Moreno; Lewis, Stones, Akanji, Gvardiol; Phillips, Nunes, Kovacic; Bobb, Foden, Gomez.

Substitutes: Carson, Grant, Walker, Alleyne, Dias, Ake, Rodri, Susoho, Bernardo, Hamilton, Alvarez, Grealish.

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