Five Man City players with a point to prove on international duty

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The March international break always feels like it comes at the worst time, and this year is no different as Manchester City wait to be their treble run-in for the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

Pep Guardiola appears to have settled on his first-choice City XI for the most important of those games, with his recent selections showing that Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling are ahead of Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus in the attacking pecking order. Likewise, Ilkay Gundogan may not fancy his chances of playing in the biggest games from the start, with Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne seemingly the preferred options in midfield.

And in defence, the back four picks itself with Ruben Dias still out, so any squad players behind that first-choice team have some work to do to persuade Guardiola they can be counted upon in the next two months. For Jesus and Fernandinho, they are back in Brazil but not with the national team as they get some much-needed time off, so they must show their worth to Guardiola on the training pitch next week.

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That gives Jack Grealish a chance to steal a march on Jesus and use England’s friendlies with Switzerland and Ivory Coast to try and build some momentum to return to City in good form. Friendly internationals at Wembley are rarely exhilarating affairs, but Grealish is a player who wants to play on the biggest stage for club and country.

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To do that, he’s got to show Gareth Southgate he can perform in the less glamorous games. It would boost his City prospects if he could get a morale-boosting goal or two.



MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: Jack Grealish of Manchester City runs with the ball whilst under pressure from Jesse Lingard of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on March 06, 2022 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Jack Grealish is away with England

in midfield, Gundogan is another hoping to send a message to Guardiola that he should be given a key role in a run-in that includes two matches each against Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, as well as a potential Champions League semi-final and two finals. Gundogan has been far from poor this season but has found himself out of favor in key games as Bernardo has been brilliant.

A friendly against Israel won’t tell Guardiola much, although a grudge match with the Netherlands will be a decent indication of Gundogan’s form and motivation for the big games coming up back in Manchester. As Bernardo tries to help Portugal to the World Cup, Gundogan can use this friendly to catch Guardiola’s eye instead.

Gundogan could face teammate Nathan Akke , although he has struggled for games with the Netherlands as much as he has for City. They face Denmark and Germany in two games that Ake will hope to feature in. If he can put in a good performance or two for his country against top opposition, it would be a reminder that he is ready when called upon for City in the run-in.

likewise, Zack Steffen would benefit from some big performances against Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying, with two wins needed to secure a World Cup space. Steffen may only have one or two appearances left this season for City in the FA Cup, but he could also be needed if Ederson is unavailable at any point.

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Three pressure qualifiers for the USA should keep his focus up for a return to City where he will be required to push Ederson in the goalkeeper department.

Finally, Julian Alvarez will hope to get more caps for Argentina as they face Venezuela and Ecuador having already qualified for the World Cup. They could still finish top of the CONMEBOL qualification table, but may already be looking ahead to how the team will look at Qatar.

That could open up an opportunity for City’s newest striker, who posted a picture training alongside Lionel Messi this week. He’s started the season well with River Plate since joining City, and some progress at international level would boost the Blues further ahead of his expected arrival in Manchester in July.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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