Managers will forever push the “one game at a time” rhetoric but when it was revealed that Kyle Walker’s suspension for his red card against RB Leipzig had been upped to three games, Manchester City fans couldn’t help but think ahead.
The England international is set to miss both of City’s games against Sporting Lisbon in the last 16 of the Champions League, while he’ll also be absent from the first leg of the quarter-final should City progress.
Pep Guardiola opted to play John Stones at right-back in the recent win over Brentford as he prepared for life without Walker.
Stones’ solid display apparently confirmed he would be the man to fill the void left by his international colleague in Tuesday’s meeting with Sporting, yet Guardiola took the chance to trial another possible solution against Norwich on Saturday.
Oleksandr Zinchenko was drafted into the Carrow Road starting XI for just his sixth start of the Premier League season and the Ukraine international’s performance gave Guardiola plenty to think about ahead of the midweek trip to Portugal.
City Is Ours editor Dom Farrell was joined by the MEN’s City writer Joe Bray on Facebook Live to discuss Zinchenko’s first league outing since Boxing Day and it’s clear Guardiola has given himself something of a selection headache.
DF: “This can be very much his [Zinchenko’s] time of year. We forget where Oleksandr Zinchenko’s been and then the next thing you know he’s playing in Champions League semi-finals.
“I thought in that first half he was filling Joao Cancelo’s shoes in a very different way at left-back, maybe playing a little more traditionally, but City didn’t really lose any of their creative outlet on the left-hand side.
“I thought a lot of the good work came from that side with [Raheem] Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan but I thought Zinchenko was a huge part of that too and it was an encouraging first performance back after a bit of time out of the team.”
JB: “Yeah, he was putting a lot of balls into the box and more often than not he was finding his man. I think there was one that Sterling put straight at the goalkeeper that was set up by a really good ball from Zinchenko.
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“A lot of those balls that were going into the near post and the far post were from Zinchenko so it was good for him and I would expect him to start in the Champions League with Walker out.
“I think we’ll have Cancelo on the right and Zinchenko on the left so it was good for him to get that game under his belt and get a bit of rhythm back.
“Hopefully for him and for City he can go into that Champions League game with a bit of rhythm and a bit of confidence.”
Do you think Zinchenko will start against Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday? Follow the City Is Ours team, Ross Jackson and Dom Farrelland Joe Bray on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.