Guardiola pins cup hopes on Laporte
– Pep Guardiola admitted Aymeric Laporte’s return from injury will be key to Manchester City’s hopes of a successful end to the season after Sergio Aguero sealed a 1-0 win against Sheffield United on Tuesday.
Guardiola’s side were labouring to break down their rivals until Aguero came off the bench to end their stubborn resistance at Bramall Lane.
City striker Gabriel Jesus had a penalty saved by Dean Henderson in the first half but with 17 min left, Aguero bagged his seventh goal in four appearances in 2020.
His 21st goal of the season in all competitions moved second-placed City to within 13 points of runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool, who have two games in hand.
Guardiola harbours dreams of leading City to their first Champions League crown and they also face an FA Cup date with Fulham this weekend, followed by the League Cup semifinal second leg against Manchester United.
With those ambitions in mind, Guardiola will have been encouraged by the way City coped with the Blades’ aggressive game plan.
“Sergio is on fire right now. Strikers need momentum. It’s good for us to have strikers in this form,” he said. “I’m so happy with the team. I know what it’s like to play here, it is a tough place. We controlled it well and created chances to win.”
Keeping their third clean sheet in 14 league games was another boost for Guardiola, who gave French defender Laporte his first appearance since August.
Laporte had been back in training for over a week, but his presence was a surprise as Guardiola had hinted he was not ready.
“We knew Aymeric couldn’t play for 90 min, that’s why we played five at the back, to protect him a little bit. He’s a crucial player for us, we’ve missed him,” Guardiola said. – AFP