Pep Guardiola has lauded Sergio Aguero for his "incredible" reaction to learning he was not in the starting line-up against Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Neither Aguero nor David Silva got off the bench as City claimed a 2-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu to take control of the Champions League last-16 tie.

Both players, along with Raheem Sterling, will now be pushing to start on Sunday when City aim to win a third EFL Cup in a row by defeating Aston Villa at Wembley.

Far from feeling they reacted angrily to being left out of the side in the Spanish capital, Guardiola has called for every player to follow the example set by Silva, Sterling and Aguero in particular.

"In these three guys, the behaviour in the locker toom was an incredible exception, specifically these three players," he said on Friday. "It was exceptional. I'm so proud about the reaction they had, knowing they wanted to play, of course, I understand that.

"Sergio was incredible, honestly, I never could express my gratitude and my thanks to him, to understand me a little bit and to help the team, being a legend as he is for what he has done for this club. I need him; we need him. I know he is ready to help us, and David as well, and even John [Stones], and Oleks [Zinchenko], and Eric [Garcia] as well, on the bench. My complete gratitude. I would love all the players to be like them."

Guardiola hopes the result in Madrid gives his side confidence as they aim to win what would be an eighth domestic trophy out of the last 11 available to them.

Along with back-to-back EFL Cup and Premier League triumphs, City have also won two Community Shields and last season's FA Cup since finishing empty-handed in Guardiola's first campaign in charge.

"Of course, it's better, it's much better to go to play a final after a good result in Madrid but we cannot live a final thinking how good we were," he said. 

"[The tie] is not done, first of all. Always I thought that it's incredibly difficult to win at big, big clubs, but it's an incredible challenge, more difficult to beat them twice. Normally, it doesn't happen. The big clubs can lose one game, but two? Rarely, it's not often. But it helps. In football, teams are a state of emotion. It's better to go to play a final not just with results but with the character, the way we played.

"For the Manchester City fans, they are going to remember [this period]. After winning the Carabao Cup for the first time, we have played 11 competitions. If tomorrow [Sunday] we win, it's eight [trophies], eight from 11 is incredible, and the last six domestic titles, being in the race for them and to win all of them, if we are able to win it…

"There are no words to express the gratitude to the players and the people working together to achieve it. It's so difficult. Honestly. It's so difficult to maintain. Now, we've played [for] 10 tiles, and we've won seven. It's massive."  

Guardiola hopes authorities will take only appropriate action amid the proliferation of the novel coronavirus, which is already impacting fixtures across Europe, particularly in Italy.

"It's a worldwide situation," he said. "Always I would like, when we are informed from authorities, politicians, the people in charge, to be serious about the message they are going to tell us as citizens. I think that is the most important thing.

"I think worldwide they are doing as much as possible to eradicate it but try to avoid if it's not necessary to make a big alarm for society. They have a duty to inform what is exactly the situation and prevent if we need it. If not: calm, work and make a normal life for everyone."

Guardiola expects Aymeric Laporte to be sidelined for up to a month with a hamstring problem sustained in Madrid, but the City manager had better news on Leroy Sane, who is to play for the Under-23 side as part of his recovery from a serious knee injury.

"There are a few things I don't like about your country, for example the academy teams cannot play in strongest leagues, but at the same time it's an incredible, good decision here in England that players for the first team, to recover, can play in the second one for their recovery," he added.

"I don't want to put a target line [on his first-team comeback]. We will see the game and speak with him. How does he feel? How did he feel against Arsenal? But it's good."

Aymeric Laporte is set to be out for three or four weeks with a hamstring strain, meaning he will miss the Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid.

French defender Laporte had to be replaced by Fernandinho 33 minutes into Wednesday's contest at the Santiago Bernabeu after appearing to suffer the injury in a collision with Karim Benzema.

City went on to win the match 2-1 and give themselves a significant advantage ahead of the second leg in Manchester on March 17, but Laporte is unlikely to be available for that clash.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday ahead of Sunday's EFL Cup final against Aston Villa, Guardiola said: "[It's a] hamstring injury, so prognosis will be normally three weeks, one month, more or less.

"We tried to avoid it but unfortunately, it's happened. After four or five months, to go directly into demanding games, sometimes it happens."

It is another blow for the injury-plagued Laporte, who has already missed a chunk of the season.

The former Athletic Bilbao centre-back was sidelined with a serious knee injury in August and only made his return on January 21 against Sheffield United.

"It's tough but we have to overcome this situation. Life is not easy. Always in this world the people who survive are those who overcome the bad moments," added Guardiola.

"It is what it is. If you think 'I am an unlucky guy', you will not improve. Accept it, work harder to come back in the best condition possible."

Laporte is a key member of the City side and is widely regarded as comfortably their most consistent centre-back having played 35 times as they won the Premier League title last season.

On top of the EFL Cup final and the visit of Madrid, Laporte is expected to miss the Manchester derby and the trip to Chelsea, which are scheduled either side of the Champions League contest.

An FA Cup clash with Sheffield Wednesday and Premier League meeting with Burnley should also come too soon for Laporte, though he could be in contention again by the time Liverpool visit the Etihad Stadium on April 5.

Aymeric Laporte is set to be out for three or four weeks with a hamstring strain, meaning he will miss the Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid.

Everyone wants a piece of Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian teenager has taken Europe by storm this season. First with Salzburg and now with Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland's exploits have reportedly alerted Real Madrid.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID MAKE CONTACT FOR HAALAND

Real Madrid have held talks with Borussia Dortmund over the signing of star striker Erling Haaland, according to Radio Marca.

Haaland has enjoyed a record-breaking start to life at Bundesliga outfit Dortmund after arriving from Salzburg in January, having turned down Manchester United.

But the 19-year-old's time with Dortmund could be brief as LaLiga giants Madrid reportedly circle amid their goalscoring woes.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Gazzetta Dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira claims Paris Saint-Germain are interested in Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. With veteran centre-back Thiago Silva out of contract at the end of the season and facing an uncertain future, Ligue 1 champions PSG are set to turn to Koulibaly, who has been linked to the likes of United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham. Napoli are reportedly set to demand at least €100-110million.

Madrid are also reportedly interested in Koulibaly, while El Desmarque says Zinedine Zidane is tracking Inter defender Milan Skriniar.

Tottenham are monitoring Manchester United defender and Roma loanee Chris Smalling, reports Calciomercato. Roma want to sign Smalling permanently.

- According to Football Insider, City have identified Everton defender Mason Holgate as a primary transfer target. Pep Guardiola is determined to bolster his defensive options after an injury-plagued season.

- Inter forward Lautaro Martinez is wanted by LaLiga champions Barcelona but Madrid are ready to go head-to-head with their rivals for the Argentina star, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Milan are eyeing a move for Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul at season's end, reports Schira.

Vinicius Junior believes decisions always go against Real Madrid after their 2-1 Champions League loss to Manchester City.

Madrid were stunned in the last-16 first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday as Kevin De Bruyne's 83rd-minute penalty earned City a come-from-behind win.

Gabriel Jesus cancelled out Isco's opener, although Madrid complained about a push from the City forward on Sergio Ramos, who was later sent off for a foul on the Brazilian.

Vinicius lamented the decision not to penalise Jesus for a foul on Ramos for the equaliser.

"The whole stadium saw Gabriel Jesus push Ramos. He did the same as me with [Riyad] Mahrez in the first half," he said.

"They give us bad calls. We are the team with the most Champions Leagues and it will always be that way.

"It has been a very clear foul and I don't understand why he hasn't called it."

Madrid had appeared in control courtesy of Isco's opener on the hour-mark, only to collapse late.

But Vinicius remains confident in his side's ability to turn the tie around in Manchester on March 17.

"We've got to keep cool, we're going to win there and pull off the comeback," he said.

"We lacked focus in that final 15-minute period and that's why they got the two goals. We have to improve.

"We know that the return leg will be tough, but we'll pull off the comeback."

Zinedine Zidane lamented Real Madrid's loss of concentration against Manchester City but insisted the Champions League last-16 tie is far from over following a 2-1 defeat.

Madrid collapsed at home to Pep Guardiola's City, who scored twice in five minutes late in the second half to snatch the momentum after the opening leg on Wednesday.

Winners of four of the past six Champions League titles, LaLiga giants Madrid earned a 1-0 lead courtesy of Isco on the hour-mark at the Santiago Bernabeu.

But Madrid saw their advantage crumble away as Gabriel Jesus headed in a 78th-minute equaliser before Kevin De Bruyne completed the comeback via the penalty spot five minutes later, with Sergio Ramos' late red card compounding Zidane's woes.

"We're gutted to have lost, but we know the tie is over 180 minute and no matter what happens that's the way it is," head coach Zidane told reporters. "Even if we'd won. We did the hard work scoring, and then in 10 minutes they scored two."

Madrid captain Ramos will miss the return leg in Manchester after bringing down Jesus with four minutes remaining and Zidane said: "That's football. We can't change it. We need to focus on the positives.

"In a result like that there aren't many positive things, we played well but for the last 10 or 15 minutes. Now we need to go there and win if we want to go through."

"They are mistakes and you pay when you make mistakes," Zidane continued. "That's it. But mistakes are a part of football and that's the way it is.

"We gave everything on the pitch, we lacked 10 minutes of concentration more. It was a very physical, even game and at the end we paid for it."

Madrid, who have only won one of their past five fixtures across all competitions, will travel to the Etihad Stadium to face City on March 17.

Pep Guardiola says there is not a striker in world football who has as much intensity off the ball as Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus after the Brazilian played a starring role in Wednesday's win over Real Madrid.

The 22-year-old was chosen ahead of Sergio Aguero for the Champions League last-16 first leg and repaid his manager's faith with a fine display.

Isco's opener on the hour looked handed Madrid the advantage in the tie, but Jesus – starting on the left flank alongside a more central Kevin De Bruyne – pulled City level.

Belgium international De Bruyne then sealed a memorable win from the penalty spot.  

Guardiola was fulsome in his praise of Jesus afterwards, telling a media conference: "There is not one striker in the world who has the intensity without the ball like Gabriel.

"He is a guy who makes incredible runs in behind. He is not an especially good player when he receives the ball to the front, but when he starts from the side to make diagonal runs, he is so fast, so good.

"We decided to play without a proper striker because of the way Madrid defend. They defend a special way. They are so aggressive, man-to-man at the goal-kicks, so high and when this happens you have to make the pitch wide.

"If you don't it's so difficult to put balls in front of Sergio Ramos, [Raphael] Varane, [Luka] Modric and [Federico] Valverde.

"We want to put the balls in diagonals to the wingers as quickly as possible and in the first minutes we suffered but after 15 minutes we got [Ilkay] Gundogan and Rodri involved and more fluidity with that."

Guardiola insists the tie is far from over, though, and says Madrid's rich history in the competition means they are more than capable of turning things around in Manchester on March 17.

"Now, I am pretty sure Zidane and his people will look at what I have done and the second game will be different," he added.

"Today we're happy but the second leg will be close. I'm not worried but still it is not over and if there's one team in the world which can overcome it, with their history, it is Real Madrid.

"Hopefully we can put in a good performance and go through."

Casemiro pinpointed a drop in intensity as the reason for Real Madrid's 2-1 Champions League loss to Manchester City – but remains confident they can still overturn the first-leg deficit.

Madrid appeared on course to take an advantage to the Etihad Stadium when Isco put them ahead on the hour mark at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

However, Gabriel Jesus' header levelled matters for City before Kevin De Bruyne completed the turnaround from the penalty spot.

Sergio Ramos was sent off four minutes from the end of normal time, meaning Madrid will be without their captain for a return leg on March 17 in which they will need to score at least twice to progress.

Midfielder Casemiro is optimistic Madrid can still achieve that difficult task, having pinpointed exactly where they went wrong on home turf.

"The explanation is obvious," he told Movistar

"We did 75 minutes really well and then we didn't have any intensity, we lost control of the game, we sat back and they are a great rival, they attacked twice and scored.

"There's no excuse. At the weekend we've got a tough game against Barcelona. We need to start thinking about that."

On the second leg, he added: "If there's one team capable to turning this around it's Real Madrid.

"But I think what's important is that we played really well for 75 minutes, against a great side, and for 15 minutes we didn't do what we had to. And they came back to win.

"It's not over, but there's a lot of work ahead."

Pep Guardiola joked Manchester City's tactics would not be getting praised if they had not won after his side came from behind to beat Real Madrid in the Champions League.

City had the better of a fast-paced first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, yet Isco's opener on the hour looked set to be handing Madrid the advantage in their last-16 tie.

However, a tactical tweak from Guardiola – who started Kevin De Bruyne in an advanced role and Gabriel Jesus on the left – saw Raheem Sterling enter the fray and spark a late revival.

Sterling's introduction gave De Bruyne license to roam, with the playmaker setting up Jesus' equaliser before the Belgian slotted in a winning penalty with seven minutes remaining.

Sergio Ramos saw red for Madrid as their capitulation worsened, with City holding firm to take a lead back to Manchester for the second leg on March 17.

"Only because we won, it doesn't count if not," Guardiola told BT Sport when asked if it was a perfect gameplan.

"The important thing is the way we played. We came here to win the game and we did it in this stadium, it's just the first part.

"If one team can overcome this situation, it will be [Real Madrid]. Of course, it's a good result.

"I am so proud, but it is just the first part. We have another game, so it is not over. It will be so hard. But be calm, enjoy the moment.

"On Sunday we have [the EFL Cup] final and then keep going in the Premier League and prepare the second game against Madrid."

City missed several chances prior to Isco's opener, which came from a mix-up between Nicolas Otamendi and Rodri, while Kyle Walker also failed to cover himself in glory, and Guardiola acknowledged his team are still prone to too many lapses.

"We were the better side and we conceded a goal that we should not have conceded and then, when Madrid were better, we scored. But that is competition, that is football," he added.

"I remember two seasons ago in the quarter-finals at Anfield we played incredibly well, but [Liverpool] had three shots on target and scored three goals.

"Against Tottenham [last season] we showed incredible personality as well, but we have to improve, we cannot gift them the goal we conceded, but it's part of the game and in the future we will grow."

De Bruyne's winner was his 50th goal in all competitions for City, and the 28-year-old said he and his team-mates are now getting used to Guardiola's tactical tinkering.

"I think in the four years [under Pep] there has always been surprises," De Bruyne told BT Sport.

"We don't sometimes really know until the game starts what we need to do. Some moments were good, we had some lesser moments but in a quality game like this you're going to struggle sometimes, but we fought really well together."

The tension was palpable as Kevin De Bruyne stepped up to take his penalty at the Santiago Bernabeu.

No doubt Manchester City's issues from the spot were going through the Belgian's mind – he had even been asked about the apparent problem after Sergio Aguero's miss against Leicester City was their fourth successive spot-kick failure.

But there needn't have been any worries in the heads of City fans, players or coaching staff. De Bruyne coolly slotted to his left, calmly placing his kick right into the bottom corner with the kind of assuredness we have come to expect from the midfield dynamo.

It was a just reward for an exceptional display from De Bruyne, who was the driving force behind much of City's best moves, laying on an unmatched four key passes.

Understandably De Bruyne will take many of the plaudits following City's impressive 2-1 win at the Santiago Bernabeu, but Gabriel Jesus more than played his part with a selfless, yet similarly crucial role.

The Brazilian was picked ahead of City's all-time leading scorer, Aguero, causing many-an-eyebrow to raise pre-match and concerning some fans after Thomas Muller's recent suggestion Pep Guardiola overthinks his selections ahead of the biggest games.

When asked if it was a reward for scoring the winner against Leicester after replacing Aguero from the bench late on, Guardiola denied it but kept his cards close to his chest.

Although initially appearing to be lining up as a lone frontman, Jesus started the contest from the left and worked tirelessly on the flank, tracking back but also proving a lively presence in attack.

The 22-year-old ended up with four shots – no one on the pitch had more – despite being asked to play such a role, one akin to the job Wayne Rooney was often tasked with performing for Manchester United on the biggest occasions.

Jesus' locale on the left actually led to him carving out the first chance of the match as he darted into the box from his wide position, cut inside Sergio Ramos and shot at Thibaut Courtois.

On this occasion the finish didn't quite live up to the build-up play.

Playing from the left is by no means a new phenomenon for Jesus, having done so on many occasions as a youngster with Palmeiras and Brazil's youth teams.

But performing such a role in the Champions League, away to Real Madrid, is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Jesus' work ethic was highlighted by the fact no one on the pitch engaged in more duels (14) than him. Eight players were involved in 10 or more, but none came out on top more often than the City forward (57 per cent).

He also completed two tackles, a figure bettered by no one, and two interceptions – only three players made more.

But to only focus on that side of Jesus' performance would be doing him a huge disservice.

De Bruyne was the single player to produce more than Jesus' three key passes, while he was there in the right place at the right time to score City's equaliser.

Peeling away from Ramos and cheekily giving him a slight nudge to maximise the space, Jesus headed De Bruyne's 78th-minute delivery into the ground and the bounce helped in deceiving Courtois as the Brazilian made light of the cross' lack of pace.

He might have got himself a second goal as he darted in behind Ramos four minutes from time, but he at least succeeded in luring the Spanish centre-back into earning the 26th red card of his professional career.

Guardiola made a bold move in selecting Jesus ahead of the ever-reliable Aguero, but the Argentinian could never have produced a comparable display in such a role.

Jesus more than justified Guardiola's faith – his industriousness and work ethic effectively inspiring one of the most famous results in City's history.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola surpassed Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti for the most wins by a manager in the Champions League knockout stage.

Guardiola's side came from behind to stun Real Madrid 2-1 in the first leg of their last-16 tie at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

A two-time Champions League winner while at the helm of Barcelona, Guardiola made history courtesy of City's victory.

It was his 28th win in the Champions League knockout stage, moving him past Ferguson, Mourinho and Ancelotti, who all have 27.

Guardiola also became the manager with the most wins (10) against Madrid in all competitions in the 21st century, surpassing Ernesto Valverde and Diego Simeone.

Sergio Ramos was shown the 26th red card of his career as the Real Madrid captain equalled a Champions League record in the loss to Manchester City.

Ramos was sent off late in the 2-1 defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu after bringing down Gabriel Jesus on the edge of the area on Wednesday.

Incredibly, it was the 26th red card of Ramos' illustrious career and also his fourth in the Champions League.

Ramos joined Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edgar Davids on a record four red cards in the Champions League.

The 33-year-old will miss the second leg of the last-16 tie, which City lead after Jesus cancelled out Isco's opener and Kevin De Bruyne converted an 83rd-minute penalty.

Manchester City completed a stunning comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu as Kevin De Bruyne's penalty secured a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Despite being the better side for much of a frenetic encounter in Spain, City – who lost Aymeric Laporte to injury in the first half – looked set to be heading for a defeat when Isco put Madrid ahead on the hour.

But De Bruyne, a peripheral figure in the first half, led the fightback, supplying the cross from which Gabriel Jesus headed home an equaliser before coolly slotting in from 12 yards after Dani Carvajal had brought down substitute Raheem Sterling.

And Madrid's frustrations were compounded with four minutes remaining, captain Sergio Ramos seeing red for a last-man challenge on Jesus as City secured a lead to take back to Manchester.

Aymeric Laporte's injury woes continued as the Manchester City defender hobbled off midway through the first half of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Real Madrid.

Laporte, who has missed the majority of the season with a serious knee injury sustained in August, only returned to action on January 21 against Sheffield United.

The 25-year-old suffered a knock in that match which kept him out until February 19, though he had started in City's previous two Premier League matches before their trip to Santiago Bernabeu.

However, Laporte lasted just 33 minutes in Madrid, with the centre-back unable to continue after sustaining an injury during a collision with Karim Benzema in City's area, and Pep Guardiola could now be without the former Athletic Bilbao man for another extended period.

He was replaced by Fernandinho, who has filled in as a defender for much of the campaign.

City face Aston Villa in the EFL Cup final on Sunday, before travelling to Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup.

Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero have been named on the bench by Pep Guardiola for the first leg of Manchester City's Champions League last-16 tie with Real Madrid.

Sterling has missed the majority of February due to a thigh strain, but Guardiola confirmed on Tuesday the 25-year-old – who has five Champions League goals to his name this season – would be fit to return at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The England forward has only been deemed fit enough to take a place among the substitutes however, and he is joined on the bench by City's leading scorer, Aguero.

Gabriel Jesus, who replaced Aguero and scored the winning goal against Leicester City on Saturday, starts up front in one of two changes to City's team – the Brazil international has scored four goals in five Champions League games this term.

Jesus' compatriot Fernandinho is a surprise omission, with Nicolas Otamendi partnering Aymeric Laporte at the back.

Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, meanwhile, has made three alterations to his side following a 1-0 defeat at Levante last time out.

Toni Kroos is replaced by Federico Valverde in midfield, while Ferland Mendy is in for Marcelo at left-back and the injured Eden Hazard makes way for Vinicius Junior, who is preferred to Gareth Bale.

Karim Benzema leads Madrid's line and will become the sixth player to make 100 Champions League appearances for the club, with Sergio Ramos making a record 124th start.

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