Unsettled Manchester City target Celtic reaction
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City will look to turn the page on their turbulent weekend defeat by Chelsea when they entertain Celtic in their final Champions League group game today. City’s 3-1 loss on Saturday left them four points below Chelsea, who top the Premier League table, and saw Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho dismissed for losing their heads in stoppage time.
Guardiola’s side are already assured of a place in the Champions League last 16, while Celtic cannot even reach the Europa League, but goalkeeper Willy Caballero says the hosts still have a point to prove. “Just hearing the anthem of the Champions League is a big motivation. It is the most important competition in the world,” the Argentine said during a pre-match press conference yesterday.
“With this, it is enough. We have to respect this kind of game. We are going to play against a champion team and be focused and play in the same way we did against Borussia (Moenchengladbach) and Barcelona. “We lost at home. We need to recover the feeling of a winning team and the only way to do that is to win tomorrow.”
Caballero is expected to start in goal in place of Claudio Bravo as Guardiola rotates his starting XI for the Etihad Stadium encounter. With Aguero banned from domestic football until New Year’s Eve, Guardiola must decide whether to hand him a last pre-Christmas run-out or give his deputy, Kelechi Iheanacho, a chance to get up to speed. “There will be changes tomorrow, definitely,” Guardiola said. “I am so happy to give minutes to people who deserved to play the last games. Whether Sergio will play or not, I will decide tomorrow.” Fernandinho received a three-game domestic ban for manhandling Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas and will not feature against Celtic due to a one-game European suspension.
Captain Vincent Kompany remains sidelined with a knee problem and Raheem Sterling is not expected to feature, having missed the Chelsea game after taking a knock to his knee.
But midfielder Fabian Delph is thought to be close to a return to first-team action after over three months out with a groin injury. Guaranteed to finish bottom of Group C, Celtic have only pride to play for, but they will hope to bow out with a performance akin to their fine showing in their 3-3 draw with City in September.
The Scottish champions have not won a game in Europe’s top-level competition proper since October 2013, while the last of their three victories in England dates back to 2003. But they have had a memorable 10 days, claiming the Scottish League Cup to bring up a century of trophies, and go into the game on the back of a last-gasp 4-3 win at Motherwell on Saturday.
“It was definitely a day to remember,” said Australian midfielder Tom Rogic, who netted a 90th-minute winner at Fir Park. “We are certainly champions for a reason and it is days like those when you are up against it, it tests your character as a group and as a unit and when you come through it, it is pretty pleasing.
“It was a new challenge and it showed the strength of the team.” One visiting player hoping to catch the eye will be 19-yearold winger Patrick Roberts, who joined Celtic from City last February on an 18month loan deal.
Former City winger Scott Sinclair and left-back Kieran Tierney have been ruled out due to hamstring and ankle injuries respectively. But manager Brendan Rodgers said centre-back Erik Sviatchenko and striker Leigh Griffiths “should be fine” after they sat out the trip to Motherwell due to illness. —AFP