Aerial threat could force change at back
PEP Guardiola explained why he has been refusing to play John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as his central defensive pair.
The City manager has preferred midfielder Fernandinho to both men in recent games, after converting him to a centre-back in the summer.
That thinking could change when the Blues face the aerial threat of Burnley’s front two Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes, and with midfield anchor Ilkay Gundogan suspended for racking up five yellow cards.
Rodri, who was on the bench in the 2-2 draw at Newcastle at the weekend, is set to step back in, as one of the bigger players in the squad.
Stones and Otamendi were the most regular pairing in the 2017-18 title season, but Guardiola has clearly changed his mind, with Stones’ form inconsistent and Otamendi coming up with several individual errors.
Asked why he was so reluctant to pair his two remaining centre backs – with Aymeric Laporte injured and Vincent Kompany departed, Guardiola replied: “I like Dinho playing in that position a lot.”
Asked whether he preferred the midfielder to his centre-backs, the manager said: “Right now, yes. That’s why he plays.”
And when asked what qualities Fernandinho has which makes him first choice, the manager said: “I prefer Gundogan and Rodri in that position.
“Gundogan has a yellow card and so is suspended and cannot play. We are going to miss him, and his quality but another one will play.”