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Jack Grealish concerns, Rodri’s consistency, selection dilemma, silverware prediction – Embargoed section: Pep Guardiola’s pre-Everton press conference part two



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Manchester City return to Premier League action on Saturday afternoon as they welcome Everton to the Etihad Stadium in the early lunchtime kick-off slot.

Pep Guardiola’s players are on a fine run of form having won every single contest across competitions starting from their FIFA Club World Cup semi-final in Saudi Arabia prior to the Christmas break.

Victory in the Middle-East has seemingly set Manchester City on a road to success this season, recording notable victories against Newcastle United at St James’ Park and Brentford at the Gtech Community Stadium in the Premier League.

A landmark win over Tottenham in the FA Cup fourth round also arrived in the middle of their recent winning run, with Nathan Ake scoring Manchester City’s first goal at the North London club’s new stadium.

Most recently it was victory against Thomas Frank’s side that moved City to within just two points of current league leaders Liverpool at the top and with a game in hand still on their side, thanks to Phil Foden’s second senior hat-trick for the club.

Everton could pose a very different threat on Saturday afternoon, with Sean Dyche and his players known for their firm defensive unit and ability to play somewhat on the counter-attack, as emphasised by their 1-1 result at the Etihad last season.

Ahead of the second meeting of the season between Manchester City and Everton at the Etihad Stadium, Pep Guardiola has addressed the media in part two of his pre-match press conference at the City Football Academy!

On the importance of Rodri:

“Well, the quality he has! The quality, the presence, the composure, the personality, how he reacts when we concede a goal, his body language, a thousand million things – he’s an incredible, complete holding midfielder, football player I would say. He’s really important, otherwise he would not play as much minutes as he has played.”

On whether Rodri is the first name on the teamsheet:

“No, normally it’s Eddie (Ederson) or Stefan (Ortega Moreno). First is the keeper, and after I go right-back, and central defenders.”

On whether this is the most selection choices he has had in recent years:

“Always I had, when everyone has been fit and is fit, always I have a little bit of a headache to select (a line-up), because the squad is really good. Always it has been, even in the first season when we didn’t win one trophy. Always it has been really good players, and I have been unfair on many players who don’t play, but it is what it is.”

On dealing with the selection headaches:

“Yeah, but if Jack (Grealish) and Jeremy (Doku) play, Phil (Foden) doesn’t play and Julian (Alvarez) doesn’t play. So it is what it is. But we need it.

“Now it’s better because we have Oscar Bobb for example, playing this season and his impact has been amazing, and in the last games he didn’t play. But it’s important because it’s 90 minutes, 95 minutes every game, and 97 minutes, and we have people from the bench that can change and make the rhythm.

“It’s important. Remember when Kevin (De Bruyne) came back and was on the bench and when he came on he helped us to win the games. Of course, with many games it’s going to happen, everyone is going to play.”

On a lack of recent action for Jack Grealish:

“He’s doing the steps to get to his best level and now he’s competing with a player playing in a high level, and this is the only reason why (he has not played much). He has to demand from himself to come back to what he was, especially last season and all the period at Villa, and I’m looking forward to giving him minutes.”

On whether Jack Grealish is not at his best level:

“This season was not like last season, but he’s getting better. This season is trying to get better lately and that’s what we’re looking for.”

On whether Manchester City now have the momentum to win the Premier League:

“We had, and we’ll see tomorrow at 12:30. I said many times, the fact we won the last five or six games is no guarantee that we’re going to win the next game. Never, ever. This is in my career, I don’t know about other managers at teams. So we have to do it again.”

On whether Manchester City can do the Treble again:

“Yeah; six-tuple, and seven-tuple, and fifty-tuple… This is a fairytale my friends, it’s more complicated than that.

“It’s try to win against Everton and we’ll see what happens. We have, I would say, 99.9% possibility that we are not going to win the Treble, because never, never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever has done it. The chance to do it again is like this, minimal.”

On whether it is easier because Manchester City have now done it:

“It would be easier if another team, (Manchester) United in that time, would have done it again. It’s not easy, not even winning against Brentford. What I like is the satisfaction when in Luton Town, when we were in trouble and we won, the celebrations in the locker room, this is what I like of my team and winning against Brentford, like last season we could not beat them, zero points to six.

“This satisfaction, and the players know it, how difficult it is, and how difficult it will be in 10/15 days when they come back here to play the game in hand that both teams have.

“Everything is so difficult in this business, everything; what we have done in the past is not a guarantee of absolutely anything. You have to do all the things again every three days to stay there until the end.

“What I like is that still we are there, I’ve said it many times. We are close to top of the league, and in the other competitions we are there, qualified, this is what I like in these stages.

“Hopefully we arrive in March with the same feeling, and in April with the same feeling, and we will fight for the titles in May. This is the target.”

On whether this is the stage in the season that himself and the Manchester City players relish the most:

“Yeah, from the experience that we have together and we know that in these stages, every game is a final, every game that you drop points – especially in the Champions League and FA Cup – and 16 games is a lot of games in the Premier League, a lot, but knowing and seeing our contenders like Liverpool especially and Arsenal, but Aston Villa and Tottenham always they are there. So I don’t have the feeling that they’re going to drop much points. We have to try to continue that rhythm.”

On whether Everton at 12:30 is a dangerous fixture due to the kick-off time:

“It is, yeah. Too much of, ‘Oh how good we are, how good City are back’. Be careful. The 12:30 is… yeah, we have to go to sleep earlier today.”

On what he wants to see from Jack Grealish:

“Himself. Always I’m pleased with all my players, Jack (Grealish) as well. So it’s not a big, big problem, completely the opposite. Now he’s making the steps to get to his best, and that’s all. We need him, we need everyone, and we need Jack, I’m looking forward to him being back at his best and giving him minutes.”

On whether it is important that the Etihad Stadium atmosphere is loud from the start:

“If we play good, and we create… we know our people. We have to give to them, we have to create chances, and be positive, proactive, and after they will respond. Otherwise, they will not. We have to, always we have to be like that. When I go to the theatre, I want to them to show me, give me your talent, and after we will respond well. So we have to do it!”

On what prompted the changes from Rodri after a difficult first season:

“But it’s normal! He arrived at an age and now he’s more mature, and it’s simple; play a lot, a lot of minutes, and every minute you play you get experience.

“And arriving here with one perspective, it’s completely different in Spain, and I think he controlled much, much better all the situations a holding midfielder has to do and of course, he paid attention. He’s an incredible professional in the training sessions. Never, since I arrived, I saw a training session from him being a little bit flat or a little bit distracted, he’s always focussed and always encouraging his mates.

“He’s a true leader on the pitch, so competitive, and he learned all the tricks that it needs to be a holding midfielder. And of course, playing and correcting and encouraging the good things, correcting the bad ones, you get better. This is what happened with Rodri.”

On whether Jack Grealish was affected by the burglary at his home:

“I’m pretty sure, for a few days, I’m pretty sure. Hopefully he forgot it, but I’m pretty sure. I was affected too, I’ve been affected too. It’s not easy what happened with him, his girlfriend, and family. So I’m pretty sure, but I think he handled it really well.

“He’s an incredible person, he has incredible humanity with the people he has. But here, with the people, security people, and all the club’s disposal tries to help him. It happened, and hopefully maybe he didn’t speak lately about that subject, so hopefully he’s fine.”

On whether it would be preferable if nobody spoke about Manchester City’s Premier League charges:

“I don’t say any comments, I spoke my opinion about that. I’m looking forward to the verdict, and yeah, wait.”