Guardiola answers poser about Stones, Otamendi defensive partnership


Date published: Monday 2nd December 2019 3:11

Languishing in third place, 11 points behind league leaders Liverpool, Pep Guardiola could be forgiven for being a little downbeat in Tuesday’s press conference ahead of the trip to Turf Moor on Wednesday.

But if the Manchester City boss was suffering from any internal despair following a disappointing draw with Newcastle United on Saturday then he wasn’t showing it here, cutting a calm and upbeat figure who hasn’t ruled out his chances of clinching a third straight league title.

That said, the Barcelona legend was under no illusions of how important it was to get a victory against Burnley on Wednesday evening.

“We need a win tomorrow, that is a fact,” he said.

Sean Dyche’s team have had a bit of a mixed bag in terms of results recently, winning two and losing three of their last five matches, but Guardiola is all too aware of the threat they can pose, particularly at home.

He said: “It is always difficult for all of the teams. What they do, they do it perfectly. They play quick with Barnes and Woods. After they arrive they make a good cross to the two strikers.

“They are good in the second balls and of course they provoke free-kicks and corners for the set pieces, so we have to try and adapt to this style of play and impose our way.

“Last season we didn’t concede one corner. We were so clever.”

With the aerial threat from Burnley considered to be such a weapon, Guardiola was asked why Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones were not paired together in the centre of defence, with the Blues boss preferring to combine one of them with midfielder Fernandinho.

His response was unequivocal: “I prefer Fernandinho as a centre-half right now. I am happy with the defence. That’s why Otamendi and Stones don’t play together.

But when challenged on that stance with the statistic that City have conceded seven goals in their last four league games he conceded: “We were not good enough, we have to improve.”

City will again be without talismanic forward Sergio Aguero, who will also miss the Manchester Derby on Saturday as he continues to recovered from the thigh injury.

But Guardiola looked in confident mood for the forthcoming fixtures and spoke bullishly of his team’s mentality.

“Never give up – That is good if you believe it. You have to believe that you can win the next game.”

Failure to do so is not an option for the Premier League champions, if they are to have any serious hopes of retaining their title, especially if Liverpool can overcome their struggling local rivals Everton 24 hours later.

Richard Garnett

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