Manchester City are looking to make it two wins from two in the Champions League group stages as they travel to take on Marseille on Tuesday night. The Blues beat Porto 3-1 in their first game as Marseille suffered a 1-0 defeat at Olympiakos.
Pep Guardiola was joined by Riyad Mahrez for the pre-match press conference...
Marseille a 'tough test'
Starting with Riyad Mahrez; the Algerian has experience against tomorrow's opposition with his time at Le Havré. He was firstly asked if they could be tricky opposition for Manchester City.
"It’s going to be a tough test like all Champions League games anyway. I follow the French league and they [Marseille] are a difficult team to play against so it is going to be tough."
"We know they have a good attack. We’re going to try to defend as best as we can and try to score goals and not concede. That is the most important thing for us tomorrow."
"I’ve always said that when I was younger I was a Marseille fan because of my father in particular, but tomorrow I’m just thinking about my game. I’m playing for Manchester City and I’m going to do everything for us to win tomorrow."
Lack of strikers and Kevin De Bruyne
Saturday's early kick-off saw Sergio Agüero limp off through injury. It's emerged since that it's a hamstring injury which may keep him out until after the next international break. Riyad Mahrez knows what a miss his attacking teammate will be but is happy for the return of another magician, Kevin De Bruyne:
"It’s always good to have strikers. It’s better for us to have someone in the box and when Sergio [Aguero] comes back, it is always good to have him. He’s one of the best and he’s always very good when he’s with us. We are better when he is with us and when Sergio [Aguero] is with us as well."
A hectic start to the season
It's something Pep Guardiola certainly reiterates to the media on a weekly basis, but it was Mahrez's turn today to give his thoughts on a hectic start to the season:
"The start of the season wasn’t normal but like I said, we have to adapt, we're professional. It's like this for everyone and we play every three days and they play every three days. Everyone is tired so we have to adapt and try to give our best."
"We are built to play every three days anyway. Everyone knows we are here to play every three days. When the manager plays us we have to be ready, tired or not tired. I think everyone is ready to play every three days."
A bumper fitness update
Manchester City's injury curse returned last week with Sergio Agüero and Fernandinho both now out for an extended period of time. However, there's some good news from Guardiola about some returning players.
Firstly, both Kevin De Bruyne and Aymeric Laporte are back to full fitness and available for selection tomorrow. Nathan Aké - who has been missing over the past week - is 'so close' to coming back. Gabriel Jesus is also around 7-10 days from any sort of a return. And finally, he had this say on Fernandinho:
"Hopefully the injury to Fernandinho is not perfect but hopefully he will be back in two to three weeks."
A boost - finally.
Can City go all the way?
He certainly seems to be getting sick of these questions every week now, but Pep Guardiola was once again asked if he thinks Manchester City could go on and finally win the Champions League this season:
"I think I answered it 250 times since the first day I arrived here. I will try like every year we try it. It was important to start well at home and now we have to win one game away and tomorrow is the second game."
"After, if we win the second and the third and the fourth we will qualify and after we will see but if you review all my answers about this question it is always the same."
Severity of Agüero's injury yet to be discovered
When the news of Sergio Agüero's hamstring injury broke soon after Manchester City's game on Saturday, many fans were left clueless as to how Pep Guardiola could fill the void left in his absence. On the injury itself, the boss is unsure on a timeframe of his return:
"It depends on the injury. When it is minimum, it will be 10-15 days. If it is longer, it will be three weeks to a month. I don’t know. We were incredibly patient, didn’t force doctors [to rush Aguero back]. People told me he was ready but we knew not for Arsenal, he was not in the best condition but without strikers that we had, it was important that he played 60 minutes."
"We tried to rest him when the muscle started to be tired. Unfortunately one action in the first half was unlucky because he wanted to stop a long shot at West Ham and it happened. We have to be calm and hope he recovers as quickly as possible."
Guardiola on Villas-Boas and quick qualification
Pep Guardiola faces former Tottenham boss André Villas-Boas in the opposite dugout tomorrow night and - as always - the Catalan was full of praise for the Marseille boss:
"I followed him at Porto where he did an incredible job. We have not been in touch much since but he knows perfectly the Premier League - a young but experienced manager that has had success and is doing a good job in Marseille."
With all the fitness concerns, quick qualification out of the group would be ideal for rotation purposes. Pep Guardiola had this to say on that possibility:
"It would be a dream but I’m thinking it is just important. We played an incredibly tough game and the second one in France is tough for physicality and talented players. Good chance to make an incredible step forward."
Guardiola 'hopes' Mendy can find form
Benjamin Mendy's Manchester City career has so far been a mix of bad form and injuries - he's really yet to get a solid run in the side. But Pep Guardiola has every confidence that the Frenchman can recapture his form showed in France:
"We still have incredible confidence that he [Mendy] will settle as good as possible and be the player he was in Marseille and Monaco."
"I am so glad about the Manchester City defenders I have. Hopefully Mendy is back soon but what the club has given me is very good. Laporte has been incredible we’ll decide if he plays tomorrow."
Agüero's contract and not buying a striker
On the topic of Agüero, the Argentine's contract with the club expires in the summer. It's always been known the final decision will be left to the club's all-time leading scorer, however, Pep Guardiola just wants him fit and available for selection:
"I don’t want to talk about the contract - I am not involved. What I want is Sergio to be fit and after the consequences will dictate the future but I don’t know. I want Sergio to come back again and be back as soon as possible."
"We miss him. In certain games, Gabriel and Sergio together in the knockouts is important. What Sergio has done at this club is outstanding and he will be a legend. We want to enjoy him more but it depends on his physicality and condition."
If Sergio Agüero does decide to leave, Manchester City will have to go into the market for a new striker. Pep Guardiola says they thought of it this summer but never actively pursued anyone:
"Maybe we considered it and thought about it and another type of striker but we could not. The club did what they can. They want what is best for the team, our team is so young."
"When you decide to buy a striker they have to be at the level of Aguero and Jesus and we could not afford it. This is the reality. I’m not saying the club didn’t want to do it in any position - they wanted to make as strong a team as possible."
The Gundogan-Rodri double pivot
The Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan double-pivot is one system Pep Guardiola tries week on week and is heavily criticised amongst some corners of the fanbase for its evident flaws. The manager tried to explain his thoughts behind playing the two together:
"Sometimes double, sometimes just one - it depends on the way we want to play. Gundo can play attacking or holding, Rodri more holding, and now Fernandinho is going to be play in this position - enough central defenders. They can complement each other - they are so smart, intelligent. Gundogan has quality in small spaces and incredible vision to pass behind lines. They are so important..."
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