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Fans deny Guardiola pub meeting, Kevin De Bruyne progress update – Embargoed section: Pep Guardiola’s pre-Huddersfield Town press conference part two

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Manchester City embark on the 2024 calendar year with a clash in the FA Cup third round on Sunday afternoon, as Championship side Huddersfield Town visit the Etihad Stadium.

Last season’s edition of England’s most historic knock-out football tournament saw City claim the trophy for just the second time under manager Pep Guardiola, defeating Manchester United in the Wembley final en route to a historic Treble.

The victory over Erik ten Hag’s side followed up the claiming of a third successive Premier League title, and preceded a momentous UEFA Champions League final in the Turkish city of Istanbul as City defeated Inter 1-0 to win the tournament for the very first time.

Manchester City are already in trophy-winning form this season, having come out on top in both the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, meaning there is the possibility of winning five trophies in just a single season this time around.

Darren Moore’s Terriers take on a City side who are starting to find some consistent form in domestic competition, having secured convincing victories over both Everton and Sheffield United following on from a difficult run towards the end of 2023.

Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff will be further buoyed by the returning Kevin De Bruyne, who is reaching the final stages of his rehabilitation process following surgery on a hamstring problem last summer.

Erling Haaland and Jeremy Doku also rejoined first-team training this week following their respective injury struggles, whilst Matheus Nunes, Bernardo Silva, Scott Carson, and Kalvin Phillips have seen their recent routines hampered by an illness. Rodri is also likely to be absent this weekend as the Spaniard deals with family bereavement in Madrid.

Speaking during part two of his pre-match press conference, manager Pep Guardiola discussed the importance of the FA Cup, what it meant to defeat Manchester United in last season’s final, as well as what Kevin De Bruyne can add to his side upon the Belgian’s return to full fitness in the coming days and weeks.

On what Kevin De Bruyne can do for Manchester City in the second-half of the season

“I think it will be good. So when Kevin plays at his best level… Now I don’t ask Kevin to play at his level, it’s just to be calm and play good minutes, and do the principles that he has to do, and the rest will come.

“We cannot force him, a player with a long injury, this kind of situation. I think from my experience, I was a football player and it happened quite similar, I was one year with hamstring problems; when you come back you need time. It’s not, ‘OK, you play’ and it’s the best Kevin.

“So he has to be relaxed, enjoy the minutes he’s going to play, try to win the games, help us to win the games. Kevin maybe in 20 minutes can help us more right now than 90 minutes. And after his body will dictate how much minutes more he can get. I think this is my opinion.”

On Phil Foden in midfield and whether he is or can be as good as Kevin De Bruyne

“They’re different players in that but it’s true that in the final third, in the decisive moments, both are incredible; their impact in the goals, the passes, it’s a lot. Phil is playing unbelievable lately in that position, in the threats, and he feels comfortable.

“And in certain games of course they can play both together in that position, in the pockets, in the middle, close to the box. In some other games, for the stability, maybe not. We have to see day by day.”

On the importance of the FA Cup to him

“You don’t find one person in this club or in the locker room who doesn’t love it! FA Cup is FA Cup. Even for me, I was not born in this country, when I was away and now I arrived, I now how special it is.

“It’s a competition that started from last season, from the low, low divisions, and everyone in the draw, you can play away in League One or Conference or low divisions. How difficult and tough it is; everyone can beat everyone. So it’s special, we felt it. I think we’ve behaved really well except one year, always we get to the semi-final, most of the time, two times in the final that we won.

“We were there all the time, and of course we want to do it. FA Cup is really, really nice, honestly. It’s really nice. Just for the fact that they put it on the weekend, that’s how important it is, over the Premier League, for the country. It’s not, ‘OK midweek’, it’s prioritised FA Cup over the Premier League. Just for that shows how important it is for the country.”

On the satisfaction of beating the previous Treble winners Manchester United in last season’s FA Cup final

“Well we were two games away from doing the Treble, and of course United is the biggest rival of City, especially for our fans. But in that moment, honestly, I took into consideration how is United in that time with Erik (ten Hag) and how they play, how they control the connections from Bruno Fernandes, with (Marcus) Rashford, in that time Jadon Sancho, the guys that played in that moment.

“So playing (against) Casemiro, players with a lot of experience, we knew how tough the game (was going to be). But I think we were lucky to start in the first incident, (Ilkay) Gundo’s goal, and after they equalised. But in the second-half we made a step forward and we were brilliant, the second-half in the final was really, really, really good!

“That helped us to arrive in a different mood, in a better mood, for the final in Istanbul against Inter. Definitely it was good. Against United, yeah, it was a little, little, little bit more special, we have to admit it. For our fans, maybe more special. I was trying, honestly, to be focussed, focussed on what we have to do to beat them, putting emotions aside, and focussed on what we have to do.”

On whether he was aware that for some fans, it was a game Manchester City could not afford to lose

“I didn’t ask them… They didn’t invite me to the pub to have a beer. So I didn’t speak with them, honestly. But I know they’re happy, the same if United beat us. It’s something special, that’s why it’s nice. So, Liverpool (against) United, or this type of games are special for the fans, it’s normal. But that is what is necessary now in our sport, it’s nice, and the big three animals in Tennis – Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal – the competition is there, the rivalry is there. So it’s necessary, it’s nice!”

On whether he thinks there is less interest in domestic football competitions at institutional level

“With all respect, Carabao Cup is less than the FA Cup…”

On whether he thinks there is going to be a reduction in Cup football with expanded global competitions

“This is not going to happen. Since day one that I’ve been here asked about that, this is not going to happen. This competition or wherever, accept it. What I’m saying is the competitions we play, the games we play, here in this club, since I arrived I try to be *inaudible* for all institutions that it’s really, really important.

“Not important is no friendly games here, it’s not competitions to choose, it’s not this game is more important than the other one. Listen, every one here, we’re not stupid, I know there are games that are more important than other ones, but to create games that are more, more important you have to win all the other games before, and this is the process.

“We train every day, and Huddersfield will prepare incredibly well, a lot, this game in the FA Cup, because they deserve it – it’s the best way to respect the competitions, yourself, your profession. It’s do what you have to do every single game. And we can win or lose, but the highest of consistency we’ve proved, these guys have proved over many, many years. This is why, of course, we respect.

“Otherwise, I said many times, we cannot win four Carabao Cups in a row if you don’t take seriously every single game! It’s impossible. Never a team has done it. Four in a row, in modern football, in the modern era, with incredible rivals. That means we were there all, all the time. And FA Cup, like we spoke with your colleague, is really, really important.”

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