Pep Guardiola expressed his delight at Manchester City's "incredible" run of EFL Cup success after his side saw off Aston Villa to win the trophy for a third straight year.

First-half goals from Sergio Aguero and Rodri proved enough for City at Wembley on Sunday, despite Villa striker Mbwana Samatta replying before the interval.

The 2-1 win means City have come out on top in five of the last seven editions of the tournament, with Guardiola at the helm for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 final victories over Arsenal, Chelsea and Villa respectively.

"Three times in a row is a big success," Guardiola said, per BBC Sport. 

"It is the consistency - incredible.

"It was awesome. We struggled in the first minutes and the last ones. They had two clear chances in the first minutes but we played really well, especially in the second half.

"The game was good. Phil [Foden] was clinical. It is a big success, our second title of the season with the Community Shield, it is so nice."

Guardiola believes his determination to take every competition seriously has been rewarded with City's run of silverware in a tournament they have now won seven times in their history, a total only bettered by Liverpool's eight.

He added: "We have won a lot. I tried when we arrive [to ensure] every game we play we try to win it, every competition we try to win it. Three times in a row being here and winning is great."

Rodri conceded Manchester City "suffered" in their pursuit of a third successive EFL Cup title, which his controversial goal ultimately secured.

Pep Guardiola's side earned a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Wembley on Sunday, Rodri having headed in his side's second from a corner that should not have been awarded.

Mbwana Samatta's goal before the interval – following a calamitous error from John Stones – ensured it was no walk in the park for City, who survived a late Villa barrage that included an almighty scare when Claudio Bravo turned Bjorn Engels' late header onto the post.

It would have been harsh for City to concede a leveller given their general dominance of the match, but Rodri confided that it had been a tough battle.

"We know they are a really tough team because they are really tall and strong, so we knew we could never give up," he told Sky Sports.

"I'm happy for the team because it's tough being here. I think they scored because of our mistake.

"At the end, we suffered a little bit but I think we had enough chances to score more goals, but we are happy for the team.

"It's the second title for us [after the Community Shield] so we are very happy."

Phil Foden, who was excellent for City, echoed his team-mate's sentiments regarding the challenge posed by relegation-threatened Villa, and rejoiced in his own input, which included an assist for Sergio Aguero's opener.

"I have to say fair play to Aston Villa, they gave us a really good game," he said.

"When I play, every minute counts, so I try and do my best and I'm very proud of my performance.

"You look at players like Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, who are great, so when I get into the team I have to make the most of it."

Manchester City won their fifth EFL Cup in the past seven seasons with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at Wembley on Sunday.

Sergio Aguero's goal got the defending champions up and running, with Rodri heading in a controversial second from a corner that should not have been given.

Mbwana Samatta's diving header got Villa back in the contest ahead of the break but City dominated the second half before surviving an almighty late scare.

Having been on the back foot, Villa came close to a last-gasp leveller as Bjorn Engels forced Claudio Bravo into a fine save, tipping his header onto the post as City won the trophy for a third year in a row.

This trophy formed part of a historic domestic treble in the last campaign and City's hopes of FA Cup success are still alive, even if their Premier League title defence has been left in tatters by a Liverpool side who suffered a shock loss to Watford on Saturday.

If City are to collect another hat-trick of trophies it will also require a maiden Champions League success, with Wednesday's stunning 2-1 win at Real Madrid raising hopes on that front.

It was eyebrows that were raised when Guardiola's team was announced, showing eight changes from that midweek starting line-up, with Kevin De Bruyne the headline name on the bench.

Villa, who have won the competition five times but not since 1996, made a bright start and Anwar El Ghazi headed narrowly over from Ahmed Elmohamady​'s delivery.

With City having won seven of the last eight matches against Villa, scoring nine goals in this season's two league fixtures, it was little surprise to see them grow into the contest and Sergio Aguero looped a header onto the roof of the net.

The breakthrough came after 20 minutes when Rodri picked out Phil Foden, who nodded into the path of Aguero to convert via a slight deflection off Tyrone Mings.

City won a corner 10 minutes later that should have been a goal-kick, the ball clearly having come off Ilkay Gundogan last, and from that set-piece – taken by the German – Rodri headed home.

Dean Smith's side showed tremendous character to reduce the deficit before the break, John Stones stumbling comically under a high ball as El Ghazi capitalised, his cross converted by Samatta.

Foden bounced a shot wide from the edge of the box early in the second half as City sought to snuff out any threat of a turnaround, with De Bruyne's introduction soon after another indication of their intent.

It became a game of attack versus defence, with Villa pinned back, and it took a stunning Orjan Nyland save to keep out Rodri's downward header.

Remarkably, Villa almost snatched a leveller, but Bravo produced a superb save to push Engels' attempt onto his right-hand upright in the dying moments.

 

What does it mean? Silverware lining for City

City have had a long time to get used to the idea the Premier League trophy will not reside at the Etihad Stadium next season, and so competitions like the EFL Cup – evidently not taken lightly by Guardiola – have taken on added importance.

This is yet another piece of silverware to add to his and the club's collection, which should provide a boost for a run-in that could yet yield two further prizes.

Villa, meanwhile, must quickly dust themselves down as they seek to secure their top-flight status.

Classy Foden shines on Wembley stage

Foden's first City goal came in this competition against Oxford United in 2018, his performance then earning rave reviews from Guardiola, who has used him relatively sparingly. But Foden's class was evident again in London, the English midfielder showcasing his exquisite first touch on numerous occasions, while also providing a headed assist for Aguero's opener.

Mason misses the obvious

Given City's dominance of the match, it might seem churlish to single out referee Lee Mason's role as being pivotal, but such a brazen mistake – the award of the corner which led to Rodri's goal – on such a big stage is hard to overlook. Besides, Stones' error was humiliating enough without also singling him out here...

What's next?

City head to Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup on Wednesday, with the Manchester derby to follow on Sunday. Villa's fight for survival takes them to Leicester City a week on Monday.

Kevin De Bruyne will start Manchester City's EFL Cup final showdown against Aston Villa on the bench.

De Bruyne starred as Pep Guardiola's side came from behind to win 2-1 at Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday – creating Gabriel Jesus' equaliser before dispatching a late penalty to give City a first-leg advantage in the last-16 tie.

But Guardiola has opted to manage the workload of his star playmaker, who sat out large chunks of last season with two separate knee injuries.

Club captain David Silva takes the armband from De Bruyne as he returns to the starting line-up alongside Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho, the experienced trio having been named among the substitutes at the Santiago Bernabeu, while England Under-21 midfielder Phil Foden looks set to complete a front three that also includes Raheem Sterling.

Elsewhere on another eyebrow-raising team sheet from Guardiola – showing eight changes from midweek – there are defensive recalls for John Stones and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Orjan Nyland has been named in goal for Villa, the understudy having impressed sufficiently in the semi-final triumph against Leicester City to keep the experienced Pepe Reina on the bench. Similarly, City understudy Claudio Bravo retains his cup place at the expense of regular number one Ederson.

City are aiming to extend their recent dominance of the competition by winning a fifth EFL Cup in the past seven seasons, along with a third in succession having beaten Arsenal 3-0 in the 2018 final before overcoming Chelsea on penalties 12 months ago.

When the sides met at Villa Park in January, Aguero hit a hat-trick and De Bruyne excelled as the visitors ran out 6-1 winners.

Kevin De Bruyne will start Manchester City's EFL Cup final showdown against Aston Villa on the bench.

De Bruyne starred as Pep Guardiola's side came from behind to win 2-1 at Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday – creating Gabriel Jesus' equaliser before dispatching a late penalty to give City a first-leg advantage in the last-16 tie.

But Guardiola has opted to manage the workload of his star playmaker, who sat out large chunks of last season with two separate knee injuries.

Club captain David Silva takes the armband from De Bruyne as he returns to the starting line-up alongside Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho, the experienced trio having been named among the substitutes at the Santiago Bernabeu, while England Under-21 midfielder Phil Foden looks set to complete the front three alongside Aguero and Raheem Sterling.

Elsewhere on another eyebrow-raising team sheet from Guardiola - showing eight changes from midweek - there are defensive recalls for John Stones and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

 TEAM NEWS IS IN! 

XI | Bravo, Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Zinchenko, Rodrigo, Gundogan, Foden, D Silva (C), Sterling, Aguero.

SUBS | Ederson, G Jesus, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Mendy, Mahrez, Otamendi.

 @HaysWorldwide
 #ManCity #CarabaoCup pic.twitter.com/kH4Crx2TC9

— Manchester City (@ManCity) March 1, 2020

Orjan Nyland has been named in goal for Villa, the understudy having impressed sufficiently in the semi-final triumph against Leicester City to keep the experienced Pepe Reina on the bench. Similarly, City understudy Claudio Bravo retains his cup place at the expense of regular number one Ederson.

City are aiming to extend their recent dominance of the competition by winning a fifth EFL Cup in the past seven seasons, along with a third in succession having beaten Arsenal 3-0 in the 2018 final before overcoming Chelsea on penalties 12 months ago.

When the sides met at Villa Park in January, Aguero hit a hat-trick and De Bruyne excelled as the visitors ran out 6-1 winners.

Pep Guardiola says there is little he can offer to improve Kevin De Bruyne as he is the type of unique talent who will challenge himself to continue reaching greater heights.

De Bruyne has been the jewel in Guardiola's Manchester City crown since taking over at the Etihad Stadium ahead of the 2016-17 season.

The Belgium playmaker once again showed his importance to City with a stunning display in the midweek Champions League encounter at Real Madrid, which they won 2-1 to steal a lead in the last-16 tie.

After creating the first goal, the nerveless De Bruyne struck the winning penalty, a particularly vital moment given City had missed their previous four spot-kicks.

The praise continues to pour in from pundits for De Bruyne, a player who Guardiola says he has to offer little in terms of advice as he shoulders the responsibility himself.

"Honestly, these type of players, or most players I would say, the challenge comes from themselves, inside themselves," Guardiola said ahead of the EFL Cup final against Aston Villa. 

"If you have to push them to reach something special it's because they are not big, big, big. I don't like the players who complain about things. 

"As a guy he will want to reach something above what he has done, it depends on him. I don't believe too much to seduce them if you want to be a better player. 

"Players know what drills or skills to improve. It has to come from him, from something inside. The big outlets in all sorts come from inside, not because the trainers or someone has to tell them. 

"With the biggest one there is one detail, one special detail, is never complain, never make a complaint about the clubs, organisations, managers. They know the reality, they face the difficulties, they face, 'okay we are going to overcome, we are going to be better and better day by day and do it'. 

"That is only the biggest ones, the other ones they stay in positions and after they change clubs and they cannot be in the top clubs and all the time make the reason why this is for the other ones. 

"The big ones always look at himself, that is the best way. Unfortunately, it was not good enough when we went to 100 points to be the best player in the league. Maybe in the future."

Guardiola added that the only reminder he gives De Bruyne is to always keep things simple.

"It's not necessary to say absolutely anything about Kevin, just take a look how he plays," he added.

"At the end a player plays for himself and the manager through our teams. The performance, the continuity, the influence in our final third, in our finishing, in our desire, his calm and positivity. 

"When I say, 'Kevin, what did you feel before you take the penalty [against Real Madrid]?', he said, 'I'm going to score'. He doesn't feel much pressure, he likes to play in the big events. He is an exceptional player.

"Always I said to him the simple things Kevin, don't forget to do the simple things properly.

"Sometimes he's alone and loses the ball and I say, 'Kevin, you cannot do it because you are able to see something special, you have the spaces when no one can say sometimes you do it'. 

"But I think even with that he is improving and improving. You cannot forget he is not 33 years old or 34, he still has a lot of years to play and always you have the feeling when he is on the pitch, even when he's not taking influence in a period of a game especially, you always have the feeling that he's never disconnected and he has something to do and it's important."

Guardiola's side can win a fifth straight domestic trophy and third consecutive EFL Cup by beating Villa, something the City manager feels would be just reward for their "courage".

"The Carabao Cup is not the same as the Premier League and I would prefer to be winning the Premier League, but at the same time it is a good competition," Guardiola said. 

"I remember the first game when we were at Preston and we used Eric [Garcia] and Taylor [Harwood-Bellis] and they played to win the game.

"That is what I like of my teams, it happens all the time. There is not one opponent that can say they faced one of my teams, Manchester City, Bayern Munich or Barcelona, and we didn't try to win. 

"It takes courage and bravery to try to win all the time. Sometimes we have to defend more or use more long balls but that is only because we are up against a good opponent, not because we want to."

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane stressed Toni Kroos' absence from his team in midweek was a tactical decision and he told reporters to stop looking for another meaning behind the omission.

Germany international Kroos was surprisingly left out of Los Blancos' starting line-up for the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester City, which Madrid lost 2-1.

The 30-year-old had started five of Madrid's six group games and Zidane confirmed after the loss that there was no injury, though Kroos did not even make it onto the pitch.

Madrid face Barcelona in Sunday's El Clasico, with Kroos training as normal on Saturday, and despite suggestions there could be a rift developing between player and coach, Zidane was quick to shut down such talk.

"Always when there is a bad result you look for something," he told reporters.

"We did not lose because he didn't play.

"There are things that can happen in a specific moment, in a match, and we have chosen this team.

"Those who came in played well and I chose a different alternative to Toni Kroos the other day. There's nothing else.

"You do not have to look for other things."

Luka Modric, Casemiro and Federico Valverde all started in midfield against City, with Kroos having started in Madrid's previous two LaLiga games, neither of which they won.

Zidane's side host Barcelona on Sunday knowing a third successive defeat in all competitions would leave them five points behind the leaders in the title race.

 

Jurgen Klopp says Manchester City’s defeat of Real Madrid shows the strength of the Premier League despite Liverpool’s massive lead and he believes the Reds can get even better.

Liverpool are a mammoth 22 points clear of defending champions City as they bid to claim a first league title since 1990 in record-breaking fashion.

Klopp's men have dropped points only once all season - in a 1-1 draw at Manchester United – and are set to be crowned champions at a canter.

The German insists this is not evidence of a poor top flight, however, pointing to City's 2-1 Champions League first-leg victory in Madrid as proof Pep Guardiola’s side are still a force to be reckoned with.

"I couldn't care less [what people say]," Klopp said. "Look, it is completely normal. I don't think that we should have any concern for things like this.

"If other people think like that, if they think City are not as good as they were, they are. They have scored a little less goals than us, conceded a few more, and if you look why, it is clear they have been missing some players.

"The other teams are really strong, too. Yes, Bayern [Munich] beat Tottenham and Chelsea [in the Champions League] but they are really strong over a season.

"Yes, [Tottenham and Chelsea] have had some problems, that's all true. But in the moment that you play them, you don't feel that they have these problems. The points they have, we have no influence on that apart from the games when we play them.

"So, [Liverpool's dominance] says nothing about the quality of the Premier League, especially when you look at City v Real Madrid.

"I know that people look at these things, and you saw one of the best teams in the world maybe in the moment, and City were clearly better, so that shows as well how strong the league is."

However, Klopp still sees room for Liverpool to improve "in all departments", even if results could hardly be better.

"There is still a lot of work to do and a lot of space for improvement," he said.

"You see our games and result-wise it looks okay, but performance-wise there is a lot of space for improvement. That is what we work on and try constantly through the week.

"Result consistency is maybe difficult to improve because that is close to perfection, obviously, but it is possible to improve the performances in all departments.

"There are so many things you can improve that that will never end."

If you want to sign Kalidou Koulibaly, prepare to splash the cash.

Koulibaly is one of the most sought-after defenders in Europe and clubs are expected to come calling at the end of the season.

Teams from Spain, England, Germany and France are queuing up.

 

TOP STORY – NAPOLI SET KOULIBALY FEE

Napoli are ready to accept €99million (£85m) for star defender Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Koulibaly is reportedly wanted by Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis is apparently unwilling to accept anything less than the price mentioned.

 

ROUND-UP

United are monitoring Fiorentina and Italy star Federico Chiesa, reports the Daily Mail. The 22-year-old winger has previously been linked to Juventus and Inter.

- Calciomercato journalist Fabrizio Romano says Juventus are set to meet with striker Gonzalo Higuain to discuss his future in Turin. The 32-year-old is out of contract in 2021.

- The Suns says Arsenal's Europa League exit has jeopardised their transfer plans. Mikel Arteta and the Gunners had reportedly lined up moves for RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano, Bayer Leverkusen centre-back Jonathan Tah and Gent striker Jonathan David. However, the loss of income could damage Arsenal's plans.

- Fiorentina midfielder Gaetano Castrovilli is being pursued by Serie A rivals Inter, reports Calciomercato.

Atletico Madrid are eyeing a surprise swoop for Chelsea's Willian, claims Tuttomercatoweb. Willian will be available on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season. The Brazilian is yet to recommit to Chelsea. Barcelona, Tottenham and Russian outfit Lokomotiv Moscow have been credited with an interest.

Manchester City star Leroy Sane said he is feeling confident after stepping up his injury comeback via the club's Under-23 team in a boost for Pep Guardiola.

Sane had been sidelined since suffering anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) damage in the Community Shield clash against Liverpool in August but the rumoured Bayern Munich target returned on Friday.

The 24-year-old Germany international winger played 57 minutes as City defeated Arsenal 4-2 in the U23 clash at the Emirates Stadium.

"It felt really good," he said afterwards. "It was good to get a general feeling of how it is to be back on the pitch and how quick it can all be.

"There's still a gap until I'm 100 per cent and on the level I was before. There's no doubt about that, but generally, everything feels good.

"I feel confident and I had no problems, so I am happy with today. Of course it would be good if I could get back as soon as possible to the best I can be, like I was before. But I'm not putting a lot of pressure on myself to do that.

"I have to get used to the tempo and how quick it is because if you're out for the time I was, you have to get up to speed."

Sane has called City home since 2016 after arriving from Bundesliga outfit Schalke, and he has won two Premier League titles to go with FA Cup, EFL Cup and Community Shield honours.

Pep Guardiola downplayed the significance of his tactical tweaks and bemoaned Manchester City's injury problems, stating: "No managers can do it without the players".

Guardiola oversaw a 2-1 win away at Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday.

The City boss received widespread praise for his approach at the Santiago Bernabeu, lining up with Gabriel Jesus on the left wing and two midfielders - Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva - up front.

Yet Guardiola, preparing for the EFL Cup final against Aston Villa, suggested on Friday too much credence is given to systems and how a team sets up.

Asked if it would be difficult for City to change their tactics at Wembley on Sunday, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach fired back.

"First, I want to say I think you are wrong. You didn't learn," he told reporters. "The line to win and lose is so, so tight. Forget about [the tactical changes].

"I did it many times and it didn't work - it was a 'disaster' in today's words because for many, many other reasons - but that doesn't count.

"Still, people don't learn that the manager of the team who wins is perfect, a genius, and the manager who loses is a disaster. Still, people don't understand that it doesn't work in that way.

"During the same game, Sergio Ramos kicks the ball, Fernandinho touches here [points to the shoulder] and it goes out.

"[If not] they score two goals and, after that, the decisions of the manager of Manchester City would have been a disaster and the decisions from Zidane were perfect. And it was a little, little, little detail that can make a difference.

"What happened to us in the past? A thousand examples I could explain in the last three or four years about these knockout stages: we're out for these details, we're in for these details."

Along with the "little, little, little" details, Guardiola attributes his team's results down to the players.

He was therefore frustrated to again lose star defender Aymeric Laporte to a hamstring injury in Madrid and suggested City might have been closer to runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool but for such setbacks.

"A manager needs the players," Guardiola said. "All the players are fantastic but, the more you have, you have alternatives, for rotations, to be fresh.

"To be in one competition a season, you can handle it with 12, 13 good players. To be in involved in all the competitions, you need 16, 17 top, top players.

"There are 11 [in a team], so that means six, seven top, top players who are not playing. Managers depend absolutely 100 per cent on the quality of the players. As a human being, first of all, and you have - in most of the cases we have - incredible, good, talented players.

"We don't have success, the managers. No managers can do it without the players."

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.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.