Ilkay thrives in new role
German international will ensure Man City copes easily enough without de Bruyne
CELTIC v MAN CITY
(Tomorrow, 2.45am, Singtel TV Ch 112 & StarHub TV Ch 212)
There is often method behind Pep Guardiola's perceived madness.
Such is the unconventional nature of his ability to chop and change players' roles that it appears more befitting of Dr Frankenstein's laboratory than it does Europe's elite clubs.
At Barcelona, he transformed Javier Mascherano from one of world football's most ruthless enforcers into a defensive lynchpin.
A similar role reversal took hold at Bayern Munich as Philipp Lahm was reborn from a right back into an effective midfield anchor.
Others at the Allianz Arena were also not safe from the Catalan's powers of reinvention.
Joshua Kimmich's conversion from an all-action midfielder into a centre back proved, like Mascherano, to be a masterstroke, while David Alaba flourished in a variety of roles over three years.
Now it is Manchester City's turn to do the Guardiola dance, as the English giants get set for their second Champions League game under the Spaniard, against Celtic in Glasgow tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
He has been in the hot seat for two months and his experimentations have been somewhat incremental; Aleksandar Kolarov was successfully trialled alongside Nicolas Otamendi in central defence during an emphatic 4-0 rout over Bournemouth earlier this month.
Another bold move three days prior, however, has been his most revolutionary to date.
Deploying Ilkay Guendogan as a forward in the club's opening Champions League game against Borussia Moenchengladbach, rather than his familiar role as a deep-lying midfielder, could not have arrived at a better moment for the current Premier League leaders.
Guardiola was effusive in his praise of Guendogan when he spoke to Txiki Begiristain, City's director of football and his former Nou Camp ally.
Begiristain brokered the deal to lure the 25-year-old from the Bundesliga and the move is already paying early dividends.
Guardiola's choice of Guendogan ahead of compatriot Leroy Sane, an established winger, in filling the void left by David Silva for the 4-0 win over Moenchengladbach was a stroke of genius.
City's loss of Kevin de Bruyne for up to four weeks has threatened to heavily disarm them because the Belgian was in the form of his life and appeared to be inching towards world-class status.
BACK FOR BARCA
All indications are he will return in time to face Barcelona next month.
But Guardiola's side face an unenviable run of EPL fixtures against Tottenham and Everton, along with Celtic.
De Bruyne's loss will prove to be Guendogan's gain.
The German international's fervent appetite for goal during Moenchengladbach's recent hammering and his versatility in both combative and attacking play is proving to be a perfect fit in Guardiola's utopian vision at the Etihad Stadium.
The former Barcelona coach continues to chase the dream of a fully interchangeable squad. He has reaped the merits of it, both in Catalonia and Bavaria, and Guendogan already appears to be the ultimate prototype.
Intelligence remains high on Guardiola's list of priorities for his advanced players - he spent last week extolling the virtues of cunning to Sergio Aguero, as the striker prepared to return to action against Swansea last weekend.
He has had no inclination to lecture the man likely to be the foil to the Argentinian at Celtic Park.
Only one other player has been treated with such respect by Guardiola.
In Guendogan, Guardiola may have found another Lahm.