Sergio Aguero has been told to stay sharp during the international break by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.
Aguero came off the bench to rescue the Premier League champions from an FA Cup quarter-final upset at Swansea City, heading his 28th goal of the season to seal a 3-2 victory from 2-0 down against the Championship club.
The striker also laid on Bernardo Silva’s first goal for City, while their equaliser came when his penalty hit the post and went in off prone goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt – a touch of fortune that was repeated when replays showed Aguero to be offside before converting his winner.
Despite his prolific form, the 30-year-old has again been omitted from Argentina’s forthcoming friendlies against Venezuela and Morocco.
It means a welcome rest as City continue to battle for trophies on all fronts, but Guardiola does not want his star forward to simply put his feet up.
“I asked him, ‘Please train a little bit in this week off, don’t drop your physical condition’ because now he is in incredible top form,” he told reporters after the Swansea game.
“I liked [this game] because we played in a different way with two strikers. It’s nice to live that situation because sometimes, in some games, we will need that – to put a lot of people in the box.
“Sergio is exceptional. Now he is in that moment that only the greatest strikers have.”
Nunca me voy a cansar de decirlo. Este equipo nunca se rinde y siempre pelea hasta el final. A Wembley! //I’ll never get tired of saying this: this team won’t give up, and we’ll fight on ’til the end. Onwards to Wembley! #SemiFinals #FACup C’mon, City! pic.twitter.com/VEB7dZtZ02
— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) March 16, 2019
A fit and firing Aguero would heighten the chances of EFL Cup winners City pulling off an unprecedented quadruple.
One point ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League title race, they have a Champions League quarter-final against Tottenham and an FA Cup semi-final to look forward to in April.
Guardiola was again reluctant to entertain talk of a clean sweep and insisted his players’ efforts to remain in contention across the board heading into the final stretch of the season was worthy of acclaim in itself.
“I listen to the people, former players, who say if we don’t win the Champions League it will be a big, big failure, if we just win the EFL Cup it will be a disaster season,” he said.
“I don’t understand, when they are former players [who know] how difficult it is to win league titles and how difficult it is to win the Champions League, how they can say these kinds of things to our club. We are new in these kinds of positions.
“We are Manchester City, we have to win the Champions League? What are you talking about?
We played a good game in general. In the first half, we made a few mistakes and conceded goals. But the spirit didn’t drop.
Jugamos un buen partido en general. En la primera parte, cometimos errores y concedimos goles. Pero no tiramos la toalla.#swansvcity #FACup #mancity pic.twitter.com/2CBAci9weE
— PepTeam (@PepTeam) March 16, 2019
“The important thing for this club is being there, so in the next generations – the new managers and new players – they will know one generation of players fought every single game, in every single competition until the end.
“That is the best we can have. That is much more important than lifting a title. It’s what Manchester United used to do with Sir Alex Ferguson, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus – these kinds of teams, every season they are there.
“For us, that is the big news. After 100 points last season, this season at this stage with two titles in our pocket [including the Community Shield] we are there, fighting every game. That is the best we can give.”
Guardiola added: “After, the people say it was a big failure? It’s okay. But they were players and they should be proud that this kind of group fights like they used to fight in all the seasons. That’s why I say ‘chapeau’ for all my players and the staff.”
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