EPL

Phil has to be Phil - Guardiola plays down talk of Foden filling De Bruyne void

By Sports Desk January 23, 2021

Pep Guardiola praised the personality Phil Foden gave to Manchester City as they came from behind to beat Cheltenham Town 3-1 in the FA Cup, but insisted he does not have to fill Kevin De Bruyne's shoes.

Foden was instrumental as City avoided a huge shock in the fourth round on Saturday, which looked on the cards when Alfie May prodded fourth-tier Cheltenham ahead.

But the England international equalised by turning home at the far post nine minutes from time before Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres sealed progression to the fifth round.

City could have been out of sight by the time May put Cheltenham in front, with Guardiola's men wasteful in front of goal.

Foden played five key passes, with the fact none resulted in an assist indicative of the poor finishing displayed by City.

With De Bruyne out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury, Guardiola was asked in his post-match media conference if Foden can help fill the void.

"Phil has to be Phil, Phil does not have to be Kevin De Bruyne," he replied. 

"Phil has to do what he is doing in terms of the bad moments when we were losing, the personality that he gave to the game.

"Phil can play in the middle, can play winger, can play in a false nine position up front. He's playing really well, again in the right moment he scored a goal."

Joao Cancelo played the cross for Foden's equaliser after coming off the bench, while fellow substitute Ilkay Gundogan pulled the ball back for Torres to tap in City's third.

Asked to explain their introductions, Guardiola said: "When you make a change you try to look for something.

"The young two players [Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Tommy Doyle] played really well but the quality of Gundogan and Joao in the final third was so important.

"Gundogan has the sense to score and with Phil and Riyad [Mahrez] in the final third we had the quality for the final pass and dribble and that's why they came in."

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    Bernardo Silva revealed a personal competition between himself and Manchester City team-mate Ruben Dias helped to inspire his opening goal in Tuesday's 2-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach.

    Silva headed City into a 29th-minute lead in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Budapest before nodding down for Gabriel Jesus to score midway through the second half.

    It was the diminutive playmaker's 35th goal for City in all competitions and, perhaps a little surprisingly, his third with his head.

    Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Silva explained he and Portugal team-mate Ruben Dias – a centre-back certainly more adept in the air but yet to open his account for City – are competing to see who can score the most headers this season.

    "Usually I'm not [good at scoring headers]. I try to practice a lot – especially now with Ruben," he said.

    "We make a little competition to see who scores the most goals with the head.

    "I think I was lucky that Joao [Cancelo] gave me a great ball and, yes, I'm happy to have scored and helped the team."

    Speaking at a news conference after the game, boss Pep Guardiola said Silva's work on his heading on the training ground – irrespective of whether it is mainly for bragging rights – had not gone unnoticed.

    "He is really good at headers, he is really good! I saw in the training sessions," he said.

    "When you make an action for a header you have to use the body, not just the head. He used his neck perfectly. He was strong, the goal was fantastic.

    "Attacking midfielders have to arrive in the box and Bernardo and Gundo [Ilkay Gundogan] have this quality."

    Another of Silva's international team-mates, Joao Cancelo, was named man of the match after he supplied a sumptuous cross for the opener and the centre that led to Jesus' close-range effort.

    "He's an amazing player. I've played with him seven years at Benfica. We're from the same generation," Silva added, with Dias also having also come through the ranks with the Lisbon giants.

    "I know him very well, so the connection is good. He knows my timing, I know how good he is on these kind of balls.

    "It was a very good goal because of his passing qualities. Overall, he's been doing a great season and I'm very happy for him."

  • Guardiola demands Man City become more clinical in Champions League Guardiola demands Man City become more clinical in Champions League

    Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City must be sharper in front of goal if they are to end their quest for Champions League glory.

    City won 2-0 in the first leg of their last-16 tie against Borussia Monchengladbach in Budapest, with Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus on target either side of half-time.

    Despite watching his team show almost complete domination while racking up a 19th consecutive win in all competitions, Guardiola sometimes cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines at the Puskas Arena.

    Speaking to BT Sport after the match, the City boss warned his players not to repeat the mistakes of botched chances that have stained three consecutive quarter-final exits.

    "In general, it was good," he said. "We controlled the game, we concede one chance at the end.

    "Unfortunately, we were not clinical enough up front – one against one, against the defender and keeper

    "It's something we have to improve in this competition.

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    Jesus and Raheem Sterling were among those to show hesitation when presented with opportunities in the Gladbach area, with four of City's nine attempts over the course of the 90 minutes on target.

    Three missed the mark, while a further two were blocked.

    Both goals owed much to Joao Cancelo's sublime deliveries from the left, with Bernardo Silva heading in his fellow Portugal international's cross for the 29th-minute opener.

    Silva then nodded down another fine centre for Jesus to smuggle home after the hour.

    "He has to improve sometimes and take some risks in some positions but he gives us something special in our process of play," Guardiola said of Cancelo.

    "His physicality is so strong. I'm very pleased for the two passes to assist in the final third."

    City have progressed from all four of their previous Champions League two-legged knockout ties when they have won the first leg away from home.

    But Guardiola baulked at the notion of his team being favourites for European glory, having watched holders and his former employers Bayern Munich demolish Lazio 4-1 on Tuesday.

    "When I see Bayern Munich yesterday, I would not think so," he added, before insisting City's sole focus is their next Premier League game this weekend.

    "But my target now is just West Ham. For three weeks, we do not know what happens [in the Champions League].

    "If the people say [we are favourites], we have to accept it. A team who in our whole history have arrived once in the semi-finals. Okay, it's no problem."

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    Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus were on target as Manchester City put one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals with an assured 2-0 win over Borussia Monchengladbach

    Pep Guardiola's side dominated the vast majority of this last-16 first leg and the City manager might have been frustrated by the failure to turn that into a more commanding lead until Jesus prodded in after 65 minutes.

    Silva and Joao Cancelo created that goal after the Portugal duo had also combined for the 29th-minute opener, with the full-back's dipping delivery from the left for his diminutive compatriot to head home a truly sublime moment.

    It brings a familiar hurdle into sight for the Premier League leaders, who have fallen at the quarter-final stage in each of the past three seasons.

    Gladbach soon found themselves hemmed in by City's slick passing and astute pressing, with last-ditch challenges needed to thwart Jesus and Raheem Sterling.

    Guardiola's men were content to bide their time and the opener arrived just before the half hour, with Silva nodding in Cancelo's sumptuous cross from deep at the back post.

    Ramy Bensebaini sloppily gave the ball to Jesus in the 53rd minute but he hesitated and let Nico Elvedi get back to make a goal-saving challenge.

    A rare moment of encouragement arrived for Gladbach as the hour approached, with Denis Zakaria powering past Rodri but overhitting a pass into the City box that Ederson swept up easily.

    The Brazil goalkeeper was scampering in the 63rd minute when Alassane Plea's audacious flick bounced just beyond the far post.

    Those minor scares roused City and Jesus showed sharp poaching instincts when Silva again played the unlikely role of back-post target man to tee him up.

    When Phil Foden thrashed over from Ilkay Gundogan's 78th-minute knockdown, it was no surprise that Cancelo's chipped ball into the box crafted the opening.

    A careless pass in stoppage time from Rodri gave Gladbach substitute Hannes Wolf a chance to reduce the deficit but Ederson prevailed in their one-on-one.
     

    What does it mean? Savvy City look primed to push for glory

    As Gladbach failed to register a single touch inside their opponents' box during the first half at Budapest's Puskas Arena, it was impossible to imagine this City getting involved in the sort of Champions League firefights that have proved their downfall – ties finishing 6-6 and 4-4 on aggregate against Monaco and Tottenham, only to depart on away goals, springing instantly to mind.

    Such total control means Guardiola's team are unlikely to quicken the pulse as they did on those occasions but it makes the one major honour to have eluded the Catalan in Manchester a far more likely prospect.

    What's next

    City host in-form West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday, when Gladbach travel to title-chasing RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.

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