Un­set­tled Manch­ester City tar­get Celtic re­ac­tion

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

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

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