Pep: We won’t be buying in January
PEP Guardiola took Kevin de Bruyne off during City’s 3-2 defeat to Wolves to try and save the Belgian’s legs for today’s Etihad Stadium clash with Sheffield United.
De Bruyne was withdrawn with City 2-1 up at Molineux, before late goals from Raul Jimenez and Matt Doherty condemned them to a 3-2 defeat that has all but ended their hopes of retaining the title.
The Blues had led 2-0 against Wolves, thanks to Raheem Sterling’s double, but had been playing with 10-men since the early stages after Ederson was sent-off for bringing down Diogo Jota.
That led to Claudio Bravo replacing Sergio Aguero, who was making his first start since November 23, before Guardiola made a tactical change at half-time, going to five at the back with Eric Garcia replacing Riyad Mahrez.
Discussing the replacements he made, Guardiola said: “The first one, it was a red card. The second to go with five at the back because they make a lot of switches of play with Doherty and Jonny and we helped problems to move and be protected in that position, and Eric helped us because he’s so intelligent in those positions.
“After that Kevin was good but with another game [coming up], Gundo didn’t play, we have another game in less than 48 hours and we didn’t want two holding midfielders expending all their energy.”
This was City’s fifth Premier League defeat of the season, one short of their total number of defeats in the previous two campaigns combined.
Each one has come at a time when they looked to be regaining some form in the league and Guardiola has been happy with the response to the setbacks, but admits the league position – 14 points adrift of Liverpool, who have a game in hand – is a new challenge for his side to face.
“I think every defeat you should talk differently, today we played an incredible team, they play in Europe, we played 80 minutes [with 10 men],” he said.
“The response of the team always was good, the previous two seasons we are used to winning games, being at the top fighting, now we are far away, so we have to adjust mentally to the situation and prepare for the next games.” Guardiola also hailed the ‘courage’ of Raheem Sterling for demanding to retake the penalty he missed at Wolves – despite seeing his second effort saved as well. Sterling scored the rebound from his second spot-kick to give City the lead after a bizarre period of play.
The winger had seen his initial penalty saved by Rui Patricio, but was handed another opportunity when Connor Coady was penalised for encroachment.
At this point Guardiola tried to get a message on to get someone else to take the spot-kick, but Sterling stood up again and while it was deja vu with Patricio making the save, Sterling buried the rebound to put City ahead.
“I like the courage,” Guardiola said.
“I said in the last action [someone else should take it], but he (Sterling)
We didn’t want two holding midfielders expending all their energy
decided to do it. The mentality of Raheem is extraordinary.”
Sterling added a second shortly after half-time but to no avail.
The Blues bring the curtain down on a remarkable decade of success against Sheffield United at the Etihad today, and Guardiola admits they have to adapt to a new challenge after the glories of the previous 10 years.
“Well, the club in the last decade has made incredible steps with different managers and players to sustain that,” he said.
“In ten years, they have won four Premier Leagues, so it is not bad considering this league. But there are periods – football isn’t all the time being up there.
“We were incredible for two seasons but now in this competition, the Premier League, we have lost more games than the last previous two seasons.
“You have to adapt.”
Raheem Sterling celebrates – finally – scoring his spot-kick in the defeat at Wolves
City boss Pep Guardiola has explained his reasons for taking off Kevin de Bruyne at Molineux on Friday, below