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Major injury blow for Real Madrid clash, responding to Man United legend, punditry future? – Part two of Pep Guardiola’s Aston Villa preview



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Pep Guardiola has discussed a wide-range of subject matter in part two of his Aston Villa preview on Tuesday afternoon, including a major injury blow to his side.

The Premier League champions will be looking to return to winning ways and get a hectic April fixture list off to a flying start this week, after Arsenal restricted Manchester City to a 0-0 draw with a heavily defensive performance on Sunday afternoon.

The stalemate with Manchester City’s Premier League title rivals leaves the club in third position at the summit of the table, lying three points behind current leaders Liverpool and just a point behind Mikel Arteta’s side.

Aston Villa is the first of eight matches for Manchester City across the course of April, with contests in the Premier League accompanied by an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and a UEFA Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid.

A ‘serious’ injury blow to one of Pep Guardiola’s mainstay defenders was among the talking points during the embargoed section of his press conference on Tuesday afternoon, alongside the possibility of cheering on Manchester United in Premier League action this weekend.

Speaking to the media during the second-half of his pre-match press conference ahead of the meeting with Aston Villa on Wednesday night, here is every word from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

On Roy Keane’s ‘League Two’ comments on Erling Haaland

“I’m not agreeing with him, absolutely not. It’s like he said, ‘he’s a manager for the second or third league’, I don’t think so. He is the best striker in the world and he helped us to win what we won last season and the reason why we didn’t create enough chances is not from Erling (Haaland). We need more presence in the final third with more people. We played an exceptional game. I reviewed the game against Arsenal, but we missed more people in the final third. Maybe for the quality and different skills that we have, but Erling is exceptional.”

On Erling Haaland scoring one goal in six games against the top six

“(It’s) football. It happens. Some actions he misses, sometimes a lack of supply, sometimes it’s a decision from the manager, sometimes the opponent is really good, sometimes for many, many reasons. Sometimes when you have success or you don’t have success, there are many reasons. In football, there is not just one reason. There are many. Sometimes when you have success or don’t have success it’s many reasons. Football is a team sport, it’s not individual like Golf or Tennis or the other ones, and there are many reasons.”

On whether he would like to be a pundit after management

“It depends on the offer. If you have your (Jack Gaughan’s) salary, yeah.”

On pundits talking about Manchester City’s players

“I’m surprised when it comes from former players. From journalists I can understand because they’ve never been on the pitch. But former players, always I’m surprised. It’s like the referees when they retire criticising the referees, when they were there. How difficult is that business for the players. Always it surprised me. The memory disappears quick.

“The problem is the players they have, they had. The lack of missed actions, they miss it, a thousand million times. And they were hurt when they were criticised from the former players. But today it is what it is, so you have to accept it and move forward. That’s why I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. But I’m not a guy who is going to criticise my colleagues when I retire. When I’m going there, ‘It should be this, it should be that, should do that’, because I could do it now, and I don’t do it. It’s easy just sitting. But everyone has to live, for something.”

On the difficulty of players escaping pundit criticism on social media

“No, they have to do it. It’s a job, so accept it. You don’t want to accept that as a football player? You have to dedicate to another job. Like reading books or more intimacy… When you are in this amount of public figure, you have to accept it. That’s why, when you extend the contract or need a contract with an agent, you have to ask for a lot of money, you have to do it, to accept those moments. You have to do it.”

On comments about everyone outside of Manchester City wanting Liverpool to win the Premier League – more than ever now with Jurgen Klopp going

“I don’t have an opinion now. I had two years (ago), now I don’t have it.”

On who would be more popular winners out of the three teams in the Premier League title race

“I don’t know. I should go out and ask all the people in the UK what is there opinion. I don’t have this opportunity to do it. I don’t know. What is important is three points, nine games left, knowing the quality of both contenders, and Liverpool and Arsenal. But we have to try do our job, and wait. I would like to not wait being top but at the same time, when we were on top we should win all games or mainly almost everything, it’s the same situation. And after… We do our job, this is what you have to do.”

On whether criticism affects Erling Haaland given his age (23)

“It’s part of the process. So in this level, when you score the goals and you help us to win… The standards that Erling (Haaland) has are unbelievable, and the people expect everything. But there are games that I could say, ‘Ah it could be better’. But I knew during the game and I felt it when I felt it, the reason why we did not have chances is not because of Erling in that game, it was not. And of course, he has a specific quality like everybody knows, and he’s 23, and he will improve, and this is the most important thing.

“But in this world, in my world, and the world of Erling and all the players, we have to accept that. In a natural way. So it doesn’t matter if you like it or dislike it, that’s not the issue. You have to accept it and OK, let’s prove it again for yourself, let’s make them wrong, and that’s all, it’s the only thing we can do. We are not going to change, whether you like it or don’t like it, it’s not going to change. So why do you have to be worried? Not even for one second. So do it, and it’s the same as when you asked me about the calendar or about the games, it is what it is. I can give my opinion and that’s all.”

On whether Manchester City lose something in the build-up play with Erling Haaland

“No it’s a question of, like with teams in certain moments of the game Arsenal defended as a low block, so deep, and we needed more presence in the box. And with more presence in the box, Erling (Haaland) will be in more space. (Why didn’t that happen on Sunday?) Because it happened. It happened. (It very rarely happens with Manchester City?) No it happens sometimes, you have to remember. Sometimes it happened.

“We have players that are more delivery players, than players that need delivery. And it’s more skills than quality. And there are one or two principles, and we can talk about many things. If you want to defend the goal in your third, in your box, and you want to defend so they don’t score, put a lot of players close to your keeper. A lot. If you want to score goals? Bring a lot of players to the opponent’s keeper. It’s as simple as that. It’s difficult to score a goal when you are away from the goal. And we lacked it a little bit.

“And you’re right, maybe with Julian (Alvarez) we will be there, with Phil (Foden) maybe in a better game playing close there or Oscar Bobb for example – they like to move in that position. Maybe that. But it is what it is. At the same time we need players like we had, that play 90/95 minutes.”

On whether he will be cheering on Manchester United vs Liverpool this Sunday – ‘Come on United!’

“Always I support United! (Really?) Not really, but anyway…”

On Erling Haaland’s commitment to professionalism as such a young age

“Yeah I’m really surprised from day one about that. At the end, when you sign a player you don’t know him until you are living or working with him. But definitely was surprised how incredibly he lives his life just for his football game, to be ready, because his recovery is not easy comparing to other players for the dimension of his body. That’s why he needs special treatments, but he’s aware of that, his entourage and the club, doctors, physios, nutritionists – they’re aware of that. And that’s why we don’t have any doubts about whether he’s not doing what he has to do.”

On how Manchester City have trained since 0-0 vs Arsenal

“I have the feeling that in general the level of our football performance is really, really high. It’s really high this season. Aston Villa was, and I give a lot of credit to Aston Villa, we were not good, but in general even the games against the top sides we could not win, especially at home, we were exceptional. In a football game there are many details to control, and most of the parts in the last game was really good, considering the opponent we faced. In terms of many things. We lacked a little bit one concept. To score goals, you have to be there, and we were not enough players… But it happens. Football, it happens.”

On whether Rodri has been spoken to about too many yellow cards

“No, we don’t think about… I don’t remember talking about that. I think it’s one or two left (until another suspension), but it doesn’t matter. We don’t talk about that, he knows it, they know it. And the guys want to be involved in the games, and sometimes it’s yellow card, sometimes it’s not. I think he got less lately than in the beginning of the season.”

On whether Manchester City need something extra to win the competitions in the coming weeks

“Yeah, of course. We have to do our best, definitely. In all details getting better, the mentality getting better… Not exactly getting better, being our best, I know that. Now it doesn’t depend on us, we have two teams that have to drop points, and we cannot drop in the Premier League. And after we face in the Champions League, a rival like everybody knows, and a semi-final against Chelsea.

“Yeah, we know it, but I see the team ready, before Arsenal it was. Yesterday and today, I see the team ready, and that means it’s going to happen. It’s the same like the standards we have, and Erling (Haaland) is so high, the team is so high, so the people expect, ‘Ah Treble again!’ So we have to deal with that, knowing that it’s so difficult mainly not for because we have the feeling.

“I will be completely honest with all of you, I didn’t think much that we dropped much comparing with the past, in our football performance, even in our results. Even you can tell me, OK in the top-six sides you got less points than the previous ones, yeah it’s right. It’s a fact. But in terms of playing, it was really, really, really good. Especially at home. But we have to deal with that. It’s just, Aston Villa and we’ll see what happens.”

On how he manages to find the right things to say to the Manchester City players after eight years

“No book, it’s the moment. Sometimes my mood is down and I don’t say anything, sometimes my mood is higher and I say something. It depends what happens yesterday, what happened today, what happens for the next games, so it’s not like it’s planned at the half-time what I’m saying. All the managers, not just me, at half-time you don’t know before the game what you’re going to say.

“You don’t know, it happens. Sometimes you are more calm, sometimes you see the faces of the players and you try it and it doesn’t work, sometimes they don’t even try. It depends, it’s not special. What happened with that, you named the documentary, I never seen not even one chapter, and in that moment it’s what is in that moment. That specific moment, I felt something that the players have to know it. And always it’s regenerate otherwise you have new players and new situations that you can do it.”

On whether he is expecting a big end to the season for Jack Grealish

“Yeah. I have the feeling that he is back; in mood, in training, in many things, in desire. Now I’m pleased. Only I ask of the players is that, be ready, be yourself, and after it doesn’t matter if you perform at the highest level, or less. But with Jack (Grealish), his commitment and we need everyone, with the important injuries that we have and the tight schedule, many games, we need everyone.

“So the contributions of for example Jeremy (Doku) or Jack when they came in, or Rico (Lewis) when he came in, was really, really important in the game against Arsenal. Really important. They made a lot of things; Jeremy did a lot of things, Jack also was aggressive with that, and Rico – except the first one or two minutes when it’s not easy to come in immediately – he took the game in his hands and played really, really good, like normally Rico plays.

“So Aston Villa, and after Crystal Palace, Madrid, Luton, and Madrid, and all the games we have ahead of us, it’s going to happen.”

On Kyle Walker’s chances of being fit for Real Madrid

“Listen, the doctor said, ‘No’. BUT, Kyle is Kyle, he has special genetics. But what the doctor said to me, it was quite serious. But, as I said, Kyle is Kyle.”