Leicester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Pep Guardiola refused to blame England manager Gareth Southgate for John Stones’ injury absence from Manchester City’s Premier League title charge until the New Year.
Stones is expected to be out of action for up to six weeks after damaging a hamstring in City’s 2-0 win at Leicester City on Saturday, leaving Guardiola with some defensive concerns.
But the City manager did not point the finger at Southgate for playing the influential Stones for every minute of England’s two showpiece friendlies against Germany and Brazil during the international break.
“I understand Gareth Southgate. He’s preparing the team for the World Cup in Russia,” said Guardiola, whose side prevailed through goals from Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne.
“We demand a lot in the calendar from the players. That is why we have to have a bigger squad.
“As managers, we have to take these decisions. I understand he’s taking the decisions for the country.”
Guardiola is now short of cover at the back, having already had to press skipper Vincent Kompany into a comeback at the King Power Stadium following a two-month lay-off with a calf injury.
But he said: “Nico (Otamendi) was suspended, so that is why we don’t have too many options in defence. We have a problem there because we have a lot of games.
“John has been playing well leading the back four, so of course we are going to miss him, like we missed Vincent.”
Guardiola knows he will have to rotate his squad in the coming weeks in order to maintain City’s bid for glory on all fronts.
“We have to rotate the team, but it is good that we have qualified for the Champions League (knockout stages), even though we still want to finish first in the group,” he said.
“To come back with a win after the international break is very pleasing, especially to come here, the way Leicester play in terms of high pressing and the space that has to be covered by our back four.
“We did amazingly well. We conceded one chance at the beginning of the first half. We scored two amazing goals and we created a lot of situations where the last pass from the wingers could have been better.
“So we have to improve a little bit.”
With 11 wins and a draw from their opening 12 league games, City have equalled the record start they made to their 2011-12 title triumph under Roberto Mancini.
“In terms of the result, I am very happy because it’s three more points, another victory to keep the distance from the other teams,” said Guardiola, whose side remain eight points clear.
– Puel bemoans Kompany leniency –
Leicester manager Claude Puel felt aggrieved that referee Graham Scott did not show Kompany a red card in the second minute when he chopped down Jamie Vardy.
“It was a red card in my opinion,” said the Frenchman. “That decision changed the face of the game. We would have had an opportunity to score and to play 87 minutes against 10 men.
“I think Jamie is the last player. The other players cannot come back on him.
“They are a fantastic team with their possession and technique, but it would have been interesting to see how they would have responded if the referee had given him a red card.”
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