City warmed up for the fixture against Marco Silva’s men by finishing their Champions League group with a 3-1 win over Sevilla, a result that means they end the group stage in first and with 14 points. But City did trail 1-0 at the interval following a first half where Guardiola’s men failed to create many openings.
Grealish was among those who got on the ball most often and tried to make things happen, but had no real success. He was replaced by Rodri at half-time and Guardiola was asked after the game why he opted to withdraw the former Aston Villa captain.
“Jack was the best player in that first half; the best one, the most direct,” explained the 51-year-old. “But he played a really tough game in the last game and we need him for the next game.
“We need a left foot on the left and right on the right being wide to make these crosses and runs,” Guardiola added. “He had more people close to Julian [Alvarez] and that helps him to be more effective and that helped us to be more effective in the final third.”
Lewis ‘earned’ big moment
The game against Sevilla was a largely meaningless occasion on Wednesday with both sides knowing beforehand where they’d finish in the group, regardless of the result. But it was a night that will live long in the memory for Rico Lewis.
The 17-year-old became the youngest player to ever score on his first Champions League start, and also started his first-ever game for City.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Guardiola said Lewis ‘has something special’. “He’s so smart. He made a standing ovation all the way down [after being substituted late on]. He played really good,” opined the City boss.
“He is so clever, so intelligent. If you say something, he doesn’t need to practice more because he knows what happened during the game.
“We see him every day. We don’t give presents here. Not just because he is a City fan from the academy is he going to play. You have to earn it.
“We see him since day one in the USA in pre-season when he played a few minutes against Bayern. In the training sessions we always thought this guy has something special.”