MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Dec 23 – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has suggested referees must do more to protect players from serious injury, even if it means red and yellow cards for his own players.
Guardiola was angered by challenges on Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling during City’s 4-1 Premier League victory over Tottenham last weekend.
De Bruyne was fortunate to escape serious injury when Dele Alli caught him with a studs-up tackle, while Sterling was on the wrong end of a lunge by Harry Kane, with both Tottenham players receiving only yellow cards.
However, Guardiola also suggested that City defender Nicolas Otamendi was lucky to get away with only a booking after catching Kane in the face with a high boot in the same match.
He compared that challenge to the one for which Liverpool striker Sadio Mane was sent off after catching goalkeeper Ederson at Eastlands in September.
“The main thing for the referees is to protect the players and follow the rules,” Guardiola said.
“That is the most important thing. Always we are aggressive and sometimes we get injured.
“All the teams want to win and want to fight in the best way. Sometimes it happens.
“I have no doubts that Dele Ali and Harry Kane are top-team players. I am not suspicious about them, thinking they are dangerous players.
“But you have to protect them, the same as with Nicolas Otamendi and Harry Kane.
“It’s the same as what happened with Mane and Ederson. Mane doesn’t hate the goalkeeper; he didn’t want to do that.
“I’m pretty sure of that. The referees have to protect our players and the other players.”
Guardiola is certain players do not go out deliberately to hurt each other, despite Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba saying earlier this month that he hoped some of City’s players got injured in order to open up the Premier League title race.
But the City manager is still bemused that the danger of bad injuries has not been discussed more, and that the football authorities are putting so much energy into eradicating diving.
– Squealing –
Guardiola suggested that the Football Association’s attempts to tackle diving are having limited effect in any case, given that Leicester winger Demarai Gray escaped punishment for theatrically winning a late penalty against City in the League Cup on Tuesday.
“I don’t believe the players go to injure another one, whatever Paul Pogba said,” Guardiola said.
“It is impossible to think that but the football is quick, fast, and aggressive and the referees have to follow the rules.
“Everybody is squealing about diving here. If they want to punish those who are diving, OK, but we know what happened in Leicester in the 95th minute. Gray dived and nothing happened.
“The physicality in England is stronger and you have to deal with that.
“If you are not strong enough to match the physicality of the opponents, you cannot play in that league, but the referees are there to control that.
“When it is a foul, it is a foul. Believe me, especially with Kevin, he could have been out for a long time.”
Guardiola, meanwhile, has promised his players Christmas Day off, before they return to training on Tuesday, in order to prepare for next Wednesday’s Premier League match at Newcastle.
“The players will be with their families on December 24 in the afternoon and on December 25,” he said.
“I would like to give them more time, but it is not possible, we have to play against Newcastle.
“It’s part of tradition and I love that tradition. I don’t like too many games and would prefer fewer games, but it’s a Boxing Day tradition and all around the world, they will be watching us.”