Pep Guardiola has admitted Liverpool’s squad has greater depth than Manchester City’s at present, following the latter’s elimination from the FA Cup on Saturday.
The Sky Blues lost 3-2 in the semi-final at Wembley and struggled to keep pace with a much fresher Liverpool, who were 3-0 up at the break.
City managed to grab two in the second period, but, in truth, Jurgen Klopp’s men dominated for long periods of the game.
Guardiola was also hampered by a lack of options from the bench and only made one change on Saturday, introducing Riyad Mahrez for Gabriel Jesus.
The Catalan couldn’t call upon the services of Kyle Walker at Wembley, while explaining post-match that he didn’t want to risk Kevin De Bruyne, who was named on the bench, in fear of his recently applied stitches opening up.
Meanwhile, Guardiola said Aymeric Laporte couldn’t play, revealed Ilkay Gundogan had suffered a blow to the knee and implied Ruben Dias had not fully recovered from a hamstring injury in time for the game.
“Yeah Riyad was fit, and Rodri. The other [senior] ones [on the bench] there were problems,” Guardiola explained in his post-match press conference.
Liverpool’s greater squad depth
While Guardiola was limited to one change, Klopp made four and introduced Jordan Henderson, Curtis Jones, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino in the second period.
After the game, the City boss was asked if Klopp currently has more options at his disposal.
“Right now yeah,” Guardiola responded. “Kevin could not play, Kyle could not play, but it is what it is with the season we have. We play a lot of games and we don’t have the biggest squad.
“When everyone’s fit it’s okay, but if there are a few injuries it’s not enough. We have the academy players. We come back from Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, Liverpool in a short time and we can rotate some players that need it.
“But we know when we arrive in this stage of the season you are fighting for the titles, you don’t have rest.”
Why did De Bruyne warm up?
Despite Guardiola’s claims that De Bruyne wasn’t fit enough to play, the Belgian went through an extended warm-up in the second half at Wembley.
Asked why his star man was sent out to loosen up on the touchline, Guardiola didn’t give a clear response, but explained he decided not to risk De Bruyne exacerbating an injury on Saturday.
“He still had four stitches in his right foot when he hit the ball,” said the 51-year-old. “He could walk and run, but the ball was disturbing him and at the end if he plays and opens up two or three stitches, maybe we lose him more.
“Of course Kevin was happy in the condition and could play maybe from the beginning because he feels fit, maybe to play in the second half but I didn’t want to take the risk to lose him, in case it opened up the injury again or got an infection.
“That’s why I took that decision. When you play a lot of games and tough ones, these situations can happen.”
No concern about Steffen error
It was a game to forget for City goalkeeper Zack Steffen who dawdled in possession during the first half and was tackled on his own goal-line by Sadio Mane, resulting in Liverpool’s second goal.
While disappointed with the incident, Guardiola said moments like this are expected occasionally given City’s penchant for playing out from the back.
“It’s an accident, it happens. Ederson was close in the last game [against Liverpool] as well. We need that for our football,” he opined.
“Of course you should review if it happens often but the way we use our keeper and move them in different situations, I’d say the average of the way we create from there, this can happen. It was an accident.
“I’m pretty sure Zack didn’t want to do this. The strikers miss the chances in front of the keepers all the time.”