Guardiola fears cost of Manchester City's defensive crisis

Fernandinho must serve a ban, joining Aymeric Laporte and Rodri on the sidelines to further compromise Manchester City's defensive options.

Published : Oct 28, 2019 12:33 IST

Pep Guardiola concedes Manchester City's defensive injury woes could cost his team when it faces elite opposition.

City was made to work for a 3-0 Premier League win over Aston Villa on Saturday, where Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan were all on target after half-time.

Guardiola's side ended the game with 10 men when Fernandinho was set off for a second bookable offence.

The veteran midfielder has been deployed as an emergency centre-back of late, much like Rodri – who pulled a hamstring during the 5-1 midweek win against Atalanta in the Champions League.

John Stones made his first Premier League start since September against Villa, having endured an injury-hit start to the campaign, while fellow centre-back Aymeric Laporte will not feature until the new year due to meniscus surgery.

A back complaint compromised Nicolas Otamendi as erratic form did likewise and Guardiola has grappled with central defensive conundrums ever since Vincent Kompany ended his decorated City career at the end of last season.

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"When the spirit is correct and you want to help, always you go through [these problems]," Guardiola said, having converted Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko into workable left-back options amid shortages in that position over the past two seasons. 

"If the problem is for a short time we can handle it; for a long, long time I don't know.

"Against top, top, top teams, when you don't have the players who play in their own positions I don't know what will happen.

"But before that, I am not going to say, 'Oh, disaster. Oh, pity', like this. It's what it is. The ideal situation does not exist in football, especially in a long season."

City travels to Anfield to take on Premier League leader Liverpool on November 10, a game for which Laporte, Rodri, Zinchenko and Leroy Sane (both knee) will all be unavailable.

Before then, academy products Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis are in line for more action at centre-back when City host Southampton in the EFL Cup this week.

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"In the next game Fernandinho cannot play but other ones are. We have an academy, we have other solutions," said Guardiola, who went on to point out one of his defining triumphs came amid a defensive crisis.

When his Barcelona beat Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final, it did so with Yaya Toure at centre-back, Carles Puyol shunted out to right-back and veteran Sylvinho on the left of the back four.

Dani Alves, Eric Abidal and Rafael Marquez all being unavailable did not prevent the Blaugrana running out 2-0 winners in Rome.

"I played my first Champions League final as a manager against United with a back four, with three of the players who played regularly injured," he said.

"Against Cristiano [Ronaldo], [Carlos] Tevez, [Dimitar] Berbatov, Ryan Giggs – an incredible squad, one of the best squads I ever faced in my career.

"I would prefer to have Laporte, honestly, but [against Villa] John Stones played incredibly well.

"That is the only way. We have these players – okay, we go with them. That is the best way to go through."

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