News ID: 212752
Published: 0155 GMT April 06, 2018

City boss Guardiola faces derby selection dilemma

City boss Guardiola faces derby selection dilemma
PA

Manchester City can seal the league title today in what is traditionally its biggest fixture of the season, yet manager Pep Guardiola might still be tempted to field a weakened side against rival Manchester United.

With a crucial Champions League clash against Liverpool to come next week, and a 3-0 deficit to overturn, the Catalan coach faces a dilemma, Reuters reported.

Having watched their rival Manchester United dominate English football for the majority of the 1990’s and the new millennium, City fans are relishing their opportunity to get one over their bitter foes on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium.

The task is a simple one — beat United and City will seal the fastest-ever Premier League title in front of its own fans, forcing United to look on with envy.

In ordinary circumstances, Guardiola would not even entertain the idea of deploying anything other than his strongest team to secure his first league title in England, and keep City on course for a record points haul.

However, what happened at Anfield on Wednesday would have given the Catalan coach food for thought. Liverpool blew City away in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie with a blistering display of attacking football.

That 3-0 defeat leaves Citizens on brink of an exit from a competition many tipped them to win, given their relentless league form. Guardiola, though, is not giving up just yet.

“I believe a lot in this team,” he said after Wednesday’s match. “Nobody believes we will go through. We will convince ourselves...”

Tuesday’s second leg at the Etihad comes just three days after the Manchester derby — a match City do not necessarily have to win.

 

‘So tired’

 

Guardiola has told his players to forget about the emotion of a Manchester derby and focus on winning the title, adding that his players are "so tired" and need the help of the fans.

"We are close to being champions. It's a coincidence because it's the derby but it doesn't matter. We just have to be focused on what we have to do to win the game," he told a news conference.

"We would like to feel that [atmosphere], support those guys because they deserve it. We defend the badge, the club the best way possible. We're so tired because United rested all week, that's why it'll be so important in the bad moments to feel our supporters are there."

Sergio Aguero missed the midweek defeat at Liverpool and Guardiola said he could be in contention to face United.

"I don't know right now. We have training this afternoon and we are going to see his physical condition," he added.

 

Motivated Mou

 

Jose Mourinho insisted spoiling City's title party is not his driving motivation ahead of today’s derby.

"My motivation is to finish second," Mourinho told a news conference on Friday after being asked whether he was determined to make City wait to win the title, ESPN FC reported.

"I still have the motivation of finishing top four, mathematically it's not done, is a good distance but not done mathematically so that's the first objective but after that I don't hide.

"That in practical terms and finish next season to finish second, third or fourth is exactly the same, you don't win the title but qualify for the Champions League group stage, but I prefer to finish third and fourth and second and first, and we have been second for many many months, is our objective to fight for that and for that we need points.

"My objective for tomorrow is try to have points to finish second."

Mourinho siad, under normal circumstances, his team would still be involved in the title race. Instead, after 27 wins from 31 games, City can become the earliest top flight champion since Sir Matt Busby's United in 1956.

Mourinho said, "You see the number of points we have and it is easy to go to the books with the number of points we have we would normally be in the fight for the title but we are not because City have a very good number of points that makes it very, very difficult to fight for the title, which we are not in this moment."

 

   
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