Manchester City are set to have a blank in Gameweek 27 after hammering Burton Albion 9-0 in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening.
The question is not whether the Citizens will make the final – of course, they will – but when their league match against Everton, currently scheduled for Saturday 23 February, will now take place.
City also reached the final of the EFL Cup in 2017/18, with their scheduled Premier League encounter against Arsenal simply moving to the following Wednesday and both teams avoiding an FPL blank.
That isn’t an option this season, with City’s Gameweek 28 fixture against West Ham arranged for Tuesday 26 February.
Pep Guardiola’s side are also in action in the days leading up to the EFL Cup final, taking on Schalke in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday 20 February.
Gameweeks 32 and 35 have been widely mooted as double Gameweeks, though there is the possibility of City’s trip to Goodison Park being tagged onto another round of fixtures: Gameweek 25 being one such option, though that would necessitate hasty re-arrangement and neither club to be involved in an FA Cup fourth-round replay.
Our preliminary guide to the possible blanks and doubles in the months ahead can be viewed here.
Manchester City 9-0 Burton Albion
- Goals: Kevin De Bruyne (£9.7m), Gabriel Jesus (£10.1m) x4, Oleksandr Zinchenko (£4.7m), Phil Foden (£4.6m), Kyle Walker (£6.4m), Riyad Mahrez (£8.3m)
- Assists: David Silva (£8.5m) x2, Leroy Sane (£9.5m) x3, Riyad Mahrez x2, Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva (£7.5m)
While they have encountered limited opposition in Rotherham United and Burton Albion in the last five days, that City have hit 16 goals without reply suggests some of the swagger that was so badly lacking in December has returned to the Etihad.
The narrow Gameweek 21 victory over Liverpool is no doubt City’s most significant result over the last week but the manner of this latest success, a nine-goal demolition of Nigel Clough’s League One outfit, would have further encouraged owners of the reigning champions’ Fantasy assets.
Wednesday night’s 9-0 win was done without the services of Raheem Sterling (£11.3m), Ederson (£5.6m), Aymeric Laporte (£5.9m), John Stones (£5.2m) and Fernandinho (£5.3m), who were either unused substitutes or rested completely.
Sergio Aguero (£11.2m) and Vincent Kompany (£5.2m) were also missing, with Guardiola revealing both players were unavailable to him:
Almost everybody is fit except Sergio and Vincent. I make a selection, for example, Kevin [De Bruyne] and David [Silva] in the last weeks haven’t played too much and need the rhythm.
Kevin has had four, five months injured so he needs minutes. He had 70 minutes last game and today more minutes.
Aguero is thought to only be suffering from a cold, though official word is awaited on both the Argentinean forward and Kompany.
When interviewed after the match, the City boss said the magnitude of his side’s victory means he can afford to blood a second-string starting XI for the return leg in a fortnight’s time:
We spoke about that at half-time – to play simple, let them run and try to score more goals. It’s the best way to respect the competition and respect the opponents.
If you are 4-0 up and forget to continue, you don’t have respect for the competition or your opponent. The best way is do what we have to do.
We spoke about travelling to Burton with as big an advantage as possible but we didn’t expect this. It’s good for us because we can play the second team and players who don’t play regularly. In this incredible schedule, we have a little bit of a break in that week to prepare for the other competitions.
That second leg at the Pirelli Stadium falls in between Gameweek 23 and FA Cup fourth round weekend, so Guardiola’s team selection at Huddersfield Town on Sunday week should be largely unaffected by any subsequent midweek distraction.
Gabriel Jesus (£10.1m) was the headline-maker last night, scoring four goals in the space of 35 minutes and registering a slightly fortunate assist for substitute Phil Foden‘s (£4.6m) strike.
This was exactly the sort of confidence boost the Brazilian striker required after his hit-and-miss performances of late, which included a profligate display in the 7-0 win over Rotherham on Sunday.
Even ignoring his four-goal salvo, the Brazil international’s movement and sharpness were far more encouraging up front – though again, some allowance has to be made for the calibre of City’s latest opponents.
As he so often does with his squad players, Guardiola stressed the value of Jesus to his side after full-time:
Strikers need to score goals, Gabriel Jesus has had chances in the last few games and today he has scored. He is so important.
Kevin De Bruyne (£9.7m) and David Silva (£8.5m) were predictably far too good for their opposite numbers to handle, though Ilkay Gundogan (£5.4m) deserves credit for his own creative display at the base of the central midfield three: the Germany international kickstarting the moves that led to two of City’s goals with some excellent passes.
Many of City’s goals had a similar feel, with incisive balls from deep being sprayed towards “inside forward” areas and the assists coming from those zones.
That creativity from deep is something City were lacking during their loss of form in December and the return to fitness of De Bruyne and Silva is a huge bonus on that front.
Leroy Sane (£9.5m) and Riyad Mahrez (£8.3m) didn’t have to break a sweat on the flanks but Sane was perhaps the more impressive of the two, registering a hat-trick of assists before his withdrawal midway through the second half.
That Mahrez has played 180 minutes in the two domestic cup fixtures on Sunday and Wednesday (Sane 99, Sterling 57) suggests he will be the fall guy on the flank when City entertain Wolves on Monday evening.
Sane’s pitch-time could once again be affected in the medium-term, however, with Benjamin Mendy (£6.2m) closing in on a return.
Speaking on Tuesday, Guardiola said of the French defender:
He’s much better. He’s training alone. Two weeks, three weeks maybe [until he returns].
Oleksandr Zinchenko (£4.7m) played the full 90 minutes at left-back last night, though Fabian Delph (£5.3m) – on the bench after the completion of his three-match ban – could return to that position in Gameweek 22.
HOW THE GOALS WERE SCORED
1-0: David Silva’s pinpoint cross from the left was headed home by De Bruyne from ten yards out.
2-0: Sane’s shot from a narrow angle was saved after an incisive pass from Gundogan, the ball popping up kindly for Jesus to head into an empty net.
3-0: David Silva’s ball across the six-yard box was controlled by Jesus, who took his time before firing in off Bradley Collins’ left-hand post.
4-0: Sane’s ball inside from the left flank was met by Zinchenko, whose attempted cross from 25 yards out looped straight into the net.
5-0: David Silva’s pass released Mahrez on the right of the box, with the Algerian’s cross met by a Jesus header from seven yards out.
6-0: After having an initial shot saved, Jesus’ attempted follow-up rolled into the path of Foden, who stroked home from the edge of the six-yard box.
7-0: Mahrez’s ball from deep released Sane on the left side of the box and the German winger nutmegged his marker with a deft pass into the path of Jesus, who scored his fourth of the evening with a flicked finish.
8-0: David Silva’s pass released Mahrez on the left of the box, with the Algerian winger’s cut-back being cushioned home by Walker from eight yards out.
9-0: Bernardo Silva’s ball from the left flank was finished at the second attempt by Mahrez eight yards out after the Algerian had initially miskicked.
Manchester City XI (4-3-3): Muric; Walker (Danilo 74′), Otamendi, Garcia, Zinchenko; De Bruyne (Foden 58′), Gundogan, David Silva; Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Sane (Bernardo Silva 66′).
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