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Pep Guardiola faces a considerable dilemma ahead of Croatia clash – opinion

In the final game of the Champions League group stage, Manchester City face Dinamo Zagreb in the Croatian capital, with their place in the knockout stages of the competition already assured at the top of their group.

With first-choice striker Sergio Aguero currently forced out of action through injury, his manager revealed he does not know when the Argentine will return, but Aguero is getting “much better”. Though currently, Gabriel Jesus is the only out and out striker at the disposal of the Sky Blues.

However, with a trip to Arsenal in the Premier League at the weekend, and the possibility of Jesus having to deputise further throughout the busy festive period, Guardiola may feel the Brazilian international requires a rest in their virtually meaningless Champions League game. But with few alternatives to the South American striking duo, who could realistically cover Jesus to lead the line?

Raheem Sterling has played as a false nine before, both for Manchester City and England, and he is by no means goal-shy, having scored eight for the Citizens in the Premier League this season and a further five in Europe. If the Spanish tactician feels that Jesus requires rotation, Sterling would be the most capable deputy. Still, Guardiola may consider the Englishman too important of an attacking threat to risk picking up a knock or being fatigued for the weekend.

Alternatively, Riyad Mahrez could be trialed in a central role. The Algerian winger is best known for cutting inside onto his favoured right foot to find the back of the net, but during his last season at Leicester City, he was undoubtedly the focal point of the side. He could once again be at the centre of proceedings but on this occasion down the middle for City.

It is unlikely, but with nothing on the line Guardiola may wish to try something new such as Oleksandr Zinchenko as a withdrawn centre forward; the Ukrainian was initially signed as an attacking midfielder. But, due to injuries, he has spent much of his time deputising at left-back. With little to lose, his manager may feel now is the right time to allow him to show what he is capable of in a starring role.

Regardless of who Guardiola decides to deploy at centre forward this evening, one thing it does highlight is the shocking lack of options the Spaniard has upfront when missing one half of his favoured strike duo. Choosing Jesus’ replacement, should he opt to rest him, will almost certainly be giving the manager a headache.

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Premier League Table

# Team MP W D L P
1 Liverpool 21 20 1 0 61
2 Manchester City 22 15 2 5 47
3 Leicester City 22 14 3 5 45
4 Chelsea 22 12 3 7 39
5 Manchester United 22 9 7 6 34
6 Sheffield United 22 8 8 6 32
7 Wolverhampton Wanderers 22 7 10 5 31
8 Tottenham Hotspur 22 8 6 8 30
9 Crystal Palace 22 7 8 7 29
10 Arsenal 22 6 10 6 28
11 Everton 22 8 4 10 28
12 Southampton 22 8 4 10 28
13 Newcastle United 22 7 5 10 26
14 Brighton & Hov… 22 6 6 10 24
15 Burnley 22 7 3 12 24
16 West Ham United 21 6 4 11 22
17 Watford 22 5 7 10 22
18 Aston Villa 22 6 3 13 21
19 AFC Bournemouth 22 5 5 12 20
20 Norwich City 22 3 5 14 14

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