Manchester City moved to second place in the Premier League with Sunday's convincing 4-0 win over Crystal Palace. Tomorrow, the Blues face Aston Villa, the fixture meant to take place on match-day one this season.
Here's all the key quotes from Pep Guardiola before this one...
Agüero and Laporte back but not ready
A bit of injury news to kick us off - a shock I know. Sergio Agüero is back from his period of self-isolation but won't be available for this one. As will Aymeric Laporte, who has recovered from his injury, but has only trained for a small amount of time and is not fully fit.
On the latter, he said; "We need Aguero, we miss him. The best striker in our history. He can win games for himself. For a long time he's not with us but we have not sat here complaining but moved forward with the players that we have and found alternatives."
On the former, Guardiola said; "He [Aymeric Laporte] is not ready for tomorrow, but he is training with us. Yesterday was the first one, today was the second..."
Praise for the Barnsley Beckenbauer
John Stones continued his formidable partnership with Ruben Dias at the weekend, but this time even popped up with two goals. With his outstanding turnaround continuing, Guardiola has heaped praise on the Englishman:
"They know we're here but it belongs to them. The manager is not a guy who says one word and player's confidence returns. They have to understand how we want to play and speak to their teammates, I can't give them confidence."
"We knew the quality, we knew their personality but we've been impressed at the consistency, being ready mentally/physically to play every three days. You always expect the best but we're more than delighted..."
Aston Villa a quality opposition
Speaking of doing well - considering they were on the brink of relegation last season - Aston Villa are enjoying a magnificent season. Unfortunately recently, they've been hit by a COVID-19 outbreak in the squad. Despite the lack of preparation, Guardiola knows the quality they posses:
"We don't know which players will be available, tomorrow we will see. The quality they've shown this season has been incredible. That's our only concern. We know in this league you're able to win five in a row, lose three in a row."
"The best. We expect the best. I don't know the situation, I wish they are healthy and all recover well and come back healthy. This is the most important thing and I expect the best..."
Guardiola even picked out some individuals for particular praise:
"They are confident in a new season. They bought Watkins, they settled many things and the dual holding midfielders are fantastic. Barkley provides a lot of quality, and the quality they have with Trezeguet and Grealish."
"They are confident, they are not suffering near the bottom of the league. It is completely different from last season."
Four years of Gabriel Jesus!
Today marks four years since we signed Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus, and Pep Guardiola has admitted he was surprised how quickly he settled in Manchester:
"He has surprised us in many things - when you sign a player you don't know exactly how they will settle. He has surprised us positively in many things and he is the right age to improve. He knows [where to improve]..."
The squad in a 'good moment'
Winning five Premier League games on the bounce is vital, especially in a league as tight as this one. Guardiola knows the side is in a good moment, but can find ways to improve.
"We are playing good in some moments and we can improve. The mood of the team after winning a lot can suffer and right now it is in the right position, we just expect to be consistent when the results are not good because it is still a long road to run."
"I don't know what is going to happen in the future, I'm not so good to interpret or know, I just want to know and feel what we have to do tomorrow to beat our opponents Aston Villa..."
Importance of clean sheets
He's mentioned before how well the defence are playing, but with that comes clean sheets, and nine times out of 10, they win you football matches.
"It's really good. You cannot win titles if you are not scoring and conceding few. We've been really good apart from the Leicester game in conceding few chances and this season we don't make the mistakes that give opponents easy goals."
"You need to be good in set-pieces, good in many aspects. The private life of the players, physical form, many things help to be champions. When one or two things drop a little bit it is difficult..."
Dias' massive impact
A lot of credit, and rightly so, has gone to John Stones. But Ruben Dias I think it's fair to say has transformed Manchester City's defence this season. Pep Guardiola says the impact he's had is very rare to find:
"Massive, not just with John. He has the ability to live every single action, always concentrated on what he has to do and helping his mates - full-backs, holding midfielders - it is not easy to find that in someone who is 23."
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