MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Oct 26 – Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City players they risk losing their place in his first-team squad if they react poorly to being left out of the starting line-up.
The return of Kevin De Bruyne, ahead of schedule, from a knee ligament injury means that competition for places has never been more keen among City’s glittering, star-studded squad.
The strength in depth at Guardiola’s disposal means that senior players will inevitably be disappointed as they spend time on the bench or out of the matchday squads completely.
But, while the City manager has been pleased so far by the response of those left on the sidelines by the Premier League champions, he has warned that anyone guilty of sulking, or responding negatively, will harm their chances of a recall.
“It’s always a problem. I am unfair,” Guardiola told a news conference on Friday.
“The guys who don’t play deserve to play, it’s always like this. when they are training in a bad way they are out of the selection for themselves.
“If they are professional they know what it is. If they have bad faces, bad moods or want to show how disappointed they are, they will have a big problem because they are not going to play.”
Bernardo Silva, one of City’s best performers so far this season, appears the player most likely to come under pressure from the return of De Bruyne to full fitness.
But big-money signings such as Leroy Sane, Nicolas Otamendi and Gabriel Jesus have struggled for significant minutes in City’s unbeaten start to the Premier League season while promising youngster Phil Foden has seen scarce game time off the bench.
– ‘Top side’ Tottenham –
Guardiola’s next team issue will come when City face Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Monday.
The game features two of the Premier League top five heading into the weekend — a top five which is separated by two points only.
And that has led Guardiola to conclude that Tottenham, along with Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, are all genuine contenders to displace City in a five-horse title race.
“The line-up 11, 12, 13 players from Tottenham, for the last five or six years they are always there,” he said.
“They cannot invest in players because of their incredible stadium, it’s a lot of money.
“But it’s a top side. It was my first defeat (in English football) and I know how strong they are.
“Last season, we did well in both games, but they’ve got a good manager (Mauricio Pochettino) and good players.”
Repeated delays of Tottenham’s move into new stadium have led to Monday’s fixture being played at Wembley, the national stadium that is near their north London headquarters.
With other events already scheduled to take place on the outfield — an NFL American football match is scheduled for Sunday — the pitch may not be in pristine condiion for the kind of passing football favoured by both Spurs and City.
“It is what it is,” said Guardiola. “I’m pretty sure Tottenham have a good greenskeeper (groundsman).
“The Premier League don’t like it too much, Tottenham neither.
“Hopefully they can finish the stadium as quickly as possible. There’s no point complaining, we have to adapt.”
Meanwhile Guardiola will be an interested spectator when Sunday’s Classico between Barcelona and Real Madrid takes place at the Camp Nou.
It will be the first time in 11 years that Spanish football’s showpiece takes place without either the currently injured Barca star Lionel Messi or former Madrid hero Cristiano Ronaldo, now at Juventus.
“Cristiano is gone, Messi is injured, I hope he will retire soon!,” joked former Barca manager Guardiola.
“Hopefully not. Messi is going to come back, he’s unlucky because he’s never injured and strong. Sooner it will happen. But Barca-Madrid is a special game, the game of the week in Europe and will be interesting to watch it.”