Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Man City recall Stones and Foden as Guardiola demands Premier League title-clinching victory

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 22 May 2022

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Pep Guardiola said title-hunting Manchester City “don’t have any alternative but to win” as he recalled Phil Foden and John Stones for the final-day Premier League clash with Aston Villa, who were without first-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Leaders City came into the home game at the Etihad Stadium with a one-point advantage over Liverpool, who had an Anfield assignment against Wolves.

Jack Grealish, who played and scored in the draw with West Ham last week, dropped to the bench as Guardiola promoted Foden to form a front three with Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus.

Left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko was also a substitute as Stones came into the team in his place, joining Joao Cancelo, Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho in City’s backline. Fit-again Kyle Walker was also a full-back option on the bench for Guardiola.

For Fernandinho, it was to be his final match for City, after choosing to leave following nine years at the club.

In midfield, Premier League player of the season Kevin De Bruyne was joined by Rodri and Bernardo Silva.

Stones and Walker had been expected to miss the rest of the season, but Guardiola was able to summon both for the decisive final day.

Chasing a fourth Premier League title in five seasons, Guardiola wrote in his programme notes: “We have a job to do, and we must do it as a collective. We simply have to win. We don’t have any alternative but to win.”

He urged City fans to roar the team to the title, adding that such final-day moments on home turf are “a privilege and something very special”.

“As a club, these situations are relatively new. Embrace it and enjoy today as much as you can,” Guardiola wrote. “I have the feeling every year that winning the Premier League is harder. We have consistently been there fighting to win it, which says everything about the mentality and quality of my players.”

Villa, significantly, were without Martinez with Villa boss and Liverpool great Steven Gerrard citing a knee injury for his absence. His absence meant Robin Olsen, on loan from Roma, was handed a debut in place of the former Arsenal man.

The visitors’ line-up also included another former Anfield favourite in the form of Philippe Coutinho.

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