Man City boss Pep Guardiola given FA Cup final possibility thanks to potential Manchester United problem

Pep Guardiola’s journey of going throughout the second half of the season without a top-class natural left-back has been fascinating.

Joao Cancelo was named in the World Best XI shortly after his loan switch to Bayern Munich for his efforts over the previous 12 months. The Portugal star had been struggling for form in the present, though, and had seen others take his place, namely centre-back Nathan Ake.

Rico Lewis, Manuel Akanji and even Bernardo Silva (as a wing back) have all had their turn there too. City have had to deal with a host of defensive injuries yet again this season and Guardiola’s ranks have all had a fair share of time on the frontlines.

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The general came out of the office with a fresh set of innovative formation tactics that no-one on the battlefield really saw coming.

John Stones excelling in his new-found role as a defensive midfielder, Julian Alvarez sometimes operating as an attacking midfielder, Akanji being the first-choice left back with Ake sidelined.

City could win the title by 11 points, depending on final day results. Perhaps it should come as little surprise given they won the title without a number nine last season. But the worries about the left-back slot have been bigger in the minds of City fans as the lack of a striker ever had been last term, and it may yet still be a small concern ahead of the FA Cup final.

While Antony has not set the world alight at Manchester United, he has impressed. The 23-year-old has grabbed eight goals and three assists having started all but five of his 44 games this season. Strikes against Arsenal and Barcelona have shown what threat he possesses on his day, something City know well after he fired in a long-range consolation during October’s 6-3 mauling.

They may not be facing him for a third time, though. The distressed Brazilian was carried off on a stretcher inside half-an-hour during United’s 4-1 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford on Thursday. Boss Erik ten Hag said post-match that the injury looked “serious” and it’s presumed he will not be fit in time for Wembley in seven days.

This opens an extra line-up possibility for Guardiola.

It is probably the case that City will still line-up in the effective 3-2-4-1 formation that put Real Madrid to the sword last week. With Antony in the side and without a fully match-fit Ake, that would make sense.

But with Antony potentially sidelined, Guardiola can revert to a back-four with a reduced cause for concern at left-back. Akanji would be more comfortable fending off Jadon Sancho, who would likely fill the void on the right.

This also opens up the opportunity for Kyle Walker to directly deal with 30-goal Marcus Rashford, United’s biggest goal threat, one-on-one. If he can stop Vinicius Jr, who can’t he stop?

Guardiola may even start with one formation and change as the final progresses. The probable absence of Antony on the right opens up added flexibility for Guardiola – if he ever needed it.