Guardiola puts City goalkeepers on notice
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has effectively admitted he no longer has a first-choice goalkeeper after declaring he will choose between Willy Caballero and Claudio Bravo on a game-by-game basis.
Bravo was brought in from Barcelona in August to be the senior goalkeeper, but has lost his Premier League place to Caballero in recent weeks after a series of inconsistent displays.
Chile international Bravo was brought back in for the FA Cup fifth-round tie at Huddersfield 10 days ago, and is widely expected to be selected for the replay at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
Guardiola, however, has rotated his keepers for domestic cup ties this season, so that would then mean Argentine Caballero returning for Sunday’s Premier League trip to Sunderland.
But Spaniard Guardiola, who let England goalkeeper Joe Hart leave City for a loan move to Italian side Torino last year, insisted on Tuesday he was reviewing the goalkeeping situation constantly.
“They (Caballero and Bravo) are so professional, they are exceptional, so there’s no problem about that,” Guardiola explained.
“You may not believe me, but I am not thinking about who is the first and who is the second.
“I decide on what I see, on what is the recent past, on the upcoming situation of the future. We are going to decide game by game.
“I have to think about it, not just with goalkeepers.
“Tomorrow’s a ‘final’ against one team (Huddersfield) who impressed a lot when we played there away. They are near the top of the Championship. Sometimes, teams at the top of the Championship are stronger than teams in the Premier League.
“So it’s one game. We know how many surprises there are in the Cup, so I have to think about it after the training session tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.”
– Kompany return on hold –
City made eight changes for the goalless draw at Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium, and fringe players such as Pablo Zabaleta, Jesus Navas and Nolito are likely to be given a chance to impress again.
Wednesday’s game is the first of five in 19 days for Guardiola’s men, with Premier League tests against Stoke and Liverpool, as well as Sunderland, and the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Monaco to come.
City captain Vincent Kompany, though, is not ready to return after multiple injury setbacks, with the most recent a leg problem.
The Belgium international has played only six times this season, and has been dogged by injury woes over the last two years.
Guardiola, though, insisted Kompany was close to a return, and would be able to play a full part in the remainder of the season.
“Vincent is not ready for tomorrow,” the manager said. “He is much better but not for tomorrow.”
Guardiola and his players had a short break in Abu Dhabi after having no game last weekend, with scheduled opponents Manchester United beating Southampton in the League Cup final at Wembley instead.
The Abu Dhabi trip saw Guardiola meet with City owner Sheikh Mansour for the first time.
Guardiola, who succeeded Manuel Pellegrini as City manager last year, said he was impressed by the Sheikh’s football knowledge –- but the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss was left in no doubt he will be replaced if results are not good enough.
“I was really impressed that he knew absolutely everything about us,” said Guardiola. “It was nice to meet him and spend a few hours together.
“He is so happy because he sees all the games and he sees the effort, he demands it. He knows we make absolutely everything, we fight until the end.
“I had good relations with almost all my owners in Barcelona and Bayern Munich, of course it is important to know them.
“They know, we know, all the managers and owners know that we are here because of the results. If the results are not good we are going to be replaced. I replaced another manager.”