Aerial threat could force change at back

Manchester Evening News - - BURNLEY V CITY - By STU­ART BRENNAN [email protected] @MENS­ports

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.”

Ni­co­las Ota­mendi

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