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Pep Guardiola keeps Manchester City goalkeepers guessing

Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola defended Claudio Bravo on Friday, calling him a “top, top goalkeeper”, but refused to say if he will restore the Chilean to his starting XI.

Willy Caballero, the club’s second-choice goalkeeper, has played in City’s last three matches, with Bravo losing his place after going through a difficult spell.

Bravo, bought from Barcelona for £15.4 million ($19.2 million, 18.1 million euros) last August to replace Joe Hart, has not saved any of the last six shots on target he has faced.

It means he has not made a stop of any description for City since their 2-1 win over Burnley on January 2.

Guardiola picked Caballero for wins over Crystal Palace, West Ham United and Swansea City, but says he has yet to make up his mind whether to restore Bravo to the team at Bournemouth on Monday.

“I don’t know. I will decide the day of the game,” he told reporters at City’s training centre.

The City manager signed Bravo because he felt the Chilean was better at playing out from the back than England international Hart, who was dropped at the start of the season and then sent out on loan to Torino.

Guardiola’s side have conceded 29 league goals this season, 12 more than leaders Chelsea and 11 more than second-place Tottenham Hotspur.

However, he believes Bravo’s style is well-suited to the way he wants City to play.

“My opinion of Claudio remains the same,” Guardiola said. “He is a top player, a top goalkeeper.

“Football here is different. There are more crosses, more special things to deal with, but of course he is a top, top goalkeeper. The decision I take is based on what I see. That is why I am here.”

– ‘It’s what I want’ –

City, third in the table going into the weekend, have been top scorers in the Premier League for each of the last three seasons and could yet win that honour again this time round.

They have 49 goals to their credit, three fewer than joint top-scorers Liverpool and Arsenal, and two short of leaders Chelsea’s total.

But Guardiola said catching the tallies of those clubs did not concern him.

“I am not concerned too much about that,” he said. “We are not at the beginning of the season. We are in the last months of the season, so I don’t think we are going to achieve (it).”

City slipped out of the Premier League’s top four after a wobbly spell in December and January, during which they lost four out of nine matches in the competition.

Guardiola acknowledged during that run that he might have made mistakes by tinkering too much with the team’s tactical set-up.

A run of three successive wins suggests that difficult spell is over, even though City left it late to beat Swansea 2-1 last Sunday.

“When I see the first half against Swansea, it is what I want,” said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach.

“We monopolised the ball. We arrived near their goal six, seven, eight times, although we did not create too many chances because it is so difficult.

“I think we are more stable, we control more. Every game is completely different. But Bournemouth is a tough, tough game.”

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