With nine dropped points in December, Pep Guardiola will be eager to keep the pressure on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool when his Manchester City welcome Wolves to the Etihad Stadium on Monday night.
Being labelled as giant killers, the visitors have recently beaten Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool and so Guardiola will warn his team against complacency, despite coming into this fixture on the back of a morale boosting wins against Rotherham (7-0) and Burton Albion (9-0) in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup semi-final.
With back-to-back wins in the Premier League, a problem that this Manchester City side doesn’t have at the minute is finding the target. With 21 goals in their previous four games in all competitions, Wily Boly and Co. will need to be at their best on Monday night to keep Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling at bay.
However, Guardiola will know the threat that Nuno Espírito Santo and Wolves pose after the Premier League champions were held to a 1-1 draw at the Molineux in August.
“Wolves are strong, physical, good at set pieces and strong on the counter attack. When you are tired in the last minutes, they put on new players. They defend deep, switch play and control many areas,” said Guardiola.
A win for Manchester City will take them four points behind Liverpool, who squeezed past Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday by a one-goal deficit.
The return of Fernandinho is a welcome boost for Pep Guardiola, who has been integral to Manchester City this season. It’s been evident that the games that Fernandinho has been missing in has resulted in the Citizens struggling. And so, Guardiola is right to praise the contributions of the 33-year-old.
“Fernandinho for all years we have been together he has been incredible,” Guardiola said in December. “Most of the things we have achieved are thanks to that guy. Few players can do what he does. He can do absolutely anything and is an incredible player.”
Many had suggested that City would sign a midfielder this window but even with multiple injuries to an already depleted midfield, Guardiola has repeatedly stated that Manchester City will not be entering this transfer market, with the tactician happy with his squad.
We have alternatives – John [Stones] can play there, Danilo can play there, Fabian Delph – even [Oleksandr] Zinchenko can play there, Ilkay Gundogan can play there,” said Guardiola.
“We have a good squad depth and a few players can play in several different positions. I said previously we are not going to the transfer market, I’m so delighted with the squad we have. I am sad when many players deserve to play do not play – imagine if we bring another one. It’s better like this.”
With Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne both back and Phil Foden finally making a claim for a starting birth, Guardiola now has a headache on who he selects in midfield. Ilkay Gundogan had deputised for Fernandinho when injured while both David and Bernardo Silva have featured in central midfield this season, with the latter putting in the performance of a lifetime against Liverpool.
A selection headache for Guardiola at this stage of the season can only be a good thing however, with a busy winter period coming to an end, Pep Guardiola knows his Manchester City side must remain focused at this stage of the season as a lapse in concentration against Wolves could ultimately cost them a Premier League title.
Win and their four points behind Liverpool but a defeat could see them slip down to third if Tottenham Hotspur are able to dismantle Manchester United.
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