Pep Guardiola warns Manchester City stars they're playing for their futures

Peter Ferguson
The Independent
Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City stars they are playing for their futures at the club: Getty
Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City stars they are playing for their futures at the club: Getty

Pep Guardiola has reminded his under-achieving Manchester City squad that they are playing for their futures at the Etihad Stadium, beginning tomorrow against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach, tasked by the owners with establishing the club among Europe's elite, has found his first season to be more demanding than some might have expected.

City made an unscheduled early exit from the Champions League last month, losing to Monaco on the away goals rule, the first time that Guardiola has failed to reach the quarter-finals as a coach.

Their 2-2 draw at Arsenal on Sunday, when they twice surrendered the lead and failed to take advantage of Chelsea's surprise home defeat by Crystal Palace, underlined a disappointing Premier League campaign that has seen them fall off the pace in the past month that has not yielded a league win.

Guardiola delivered no recriminations, in public at least. "Every game is completely different so what I like of my teams is to have the courage to play," he said. "We have to play, and in the first half we could do better. It is a process to improve and we are still in the process, and we must improve in those terms."

However, Guardiola takes his team to Stamford Bridge trailing 11 points behind leaders Chelsea and with his plans for a stronger challenge next season already taking shape behind the scenes.

Guardiola, clearly poised for a busy summer transfer window, said: "We will think about it, we will discuss with the chairman, Txiki, all the bosses.

"Every club wants to improve and of course the changes are necessary, but we are going to discuss at the end of the season. At the end, the players decide for themselves through their performances on the pitch."

Guardiola certainly knows one of the players around which he will build a new-look City team, and is hopeful that Gabriel Jesus, their much-heralded £27million signing from Palmeiras, can still play a role towards the end of the season with a top-four place, and Champions League qualification, still to be fought for.

The exciting 19-year-old Brazilian has been sidelined since breaking a metatarsal bone in his foot against Bournemouth in February, and City had feared their highly-rated youngster was out for the season.

Guardiola said: "Yesterday is the first day that he starts to go to the pitch and run and walk.

"I don’t know exactly how many weeks he needs to come back, but I think he is at the end of the part of his process to come back so we will see. Hopefully he can help us in the games at the end of the season."

Chelsea won 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium in December, when Sergio Aguero and Fernandino

were both sent off by referee Anthony Taylor in an ill-tempered end to the game, and City were later fined £35,000 and Chelsea £100,000 by the FA after both clubs were found guilty of failing to keep their players under control.

However, Guardiola has no qualms about the temperament of his players. He said: "We can talk about Sergio and many things, but we are not to going to say Sergio Aguero is a dangerous player, please.

"What happened in that game... We were 1-0 up, created unbelievable chances to go 2-0 or 3-0, and after the reaction what happened with Sergio and Fernandinho is our frustration. Fernandinho is not one of those guys who is aggressive, he is one of the sweetest and nicest guys I have ever met. Sergio and Fernandinho are nice guys."

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