EPL

Guardiola pledges no sentiment as Aguero battles for fond City farewell

By Sports Desk May 17, 2021

Pep Guardiola will be "cold" with his Manchester City players as they jockey for selection ahead of the Champions League final.

City travel to Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday for the penultimate game of their triumphant Premier League campaign, before lifting the trophy in front of their fans against Everton on Sunday.

Sergio Aguero will hope to bid farewell to the Etihad Stadium faithful at the weekend in his last home game before departing in the close season, although the injury woes that have ruined the Argentina striker's final campaign in Manchester have returned and he will not travel to the Amex Stadium.

"He has niggles. He's a little bit disturbed in his leg, his adductor," Guardiola said.

"He felt something before the Newcastle game. He's still not fit. Hopefully he’ll be ready to play against Everton."

Sentiment might enter Guardiola's thinking on the final weekend of the domestic season, but he will be all business in Porto on May 29, when City take on Chelsea in a bid for their first European trophy for 51 years.

"I would say I would be cold. I have to take a decision which is the best to win that game," he said.

"If Sergio is fit, he is going to help us, that is for sure. If he is going to help us score goals, he is going to play, but it's the final of the Champions League.

"I have to take the decision that gives us the best chance of winning that game."

For forwards like Aguero or Ferran Torres – who staked his claim with an excellent hat-trick in the 4-3 win at Newcastle United – any hopes of selection at Estadio do Dragao might be forlorn, given City's progress through the knockout rounds relied largely upon deploying the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan in a striker-less formation.

However, after the victory at St James' Park, Guardiola intriguingly said he has "two options" for the final and on Monday he stated selection was more up in the air than in his 2009 and 2011 Champions League triumphs with Barcelona.

"Always it was difficult but always I remember the first XI of Barcelona was clear," he said.

"Here we rotate a lot and everybody can play, so still right now I am not clear the way we are going to play and with who we are going to play, so that’s why I have to take a look these 10, 11 days. After, we have to take the decision.

"This is the toughest moment. That is why the relationship between the players and the manager has to have a little bit of distance.

"You cannot have that close a relationship because you have to take decisions that take part in their careers and sometimes I am unfair to them, but it is what it is. I don't have another solution."

Nevertheless, none of this has stopped plenty of training ground pleasantries over recent days, with Guardiola knowing this is not simply as a result of spirits riding high after being crowned champions last week.

"They listen a little bit more. It's a serious point, they’re not stupid," he chuckled. "They want to play, so they are nicer to me.

"Then I will make a selection and they will be who they are normally: grumpy, upset with me. That's normal."

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    Benjamin Pavard revealed he was knocked out for "10 to 15 seconds" before returning to the field in France's 1-0 win over Germany at Euro 2020.

    Pavard sustained a head injury following a collision with Germany's Robin Gosens as world champions France opened their Group F campaign with victory on Tuesday.

    France defender Pavard was left on the floor before receiving treatment for several minutes in Munich, where he was eventually allowed to continue.

    "I took a hell of a shock," Pavard told beIN Sports post-match.

    "I was a little knocked out for 10 to 15 seconds. After that, it was better."

    A "concussion charter" was signed by all 24 teams at Euro 2020 – a commitment to taking a series of measures to improve the care of players and includes neurological baseline testing and access to in-match television replays for team doctors.

    But the incident involving Pavard has raised further questions about concussion protocols in football.

    FIFPro has long called for temporary concussion substitutions and the enforcement of a minimum six-day gradual return to play.

    "The issue of concussion is a very serious issue. It's a health and safety issue, which is related to their work place. In my point of view, I don't think it's been addressed in the proper manner it should be addressed," FIFPro vice-president Francis Awaritefe previously told Stats Perform.

    "We've seen the medical data around the long-term risks of concussion and how they can have a deleterious long-term effect for people who suffer concussion when it's not managed properly.

    "We're really worried about it because football seems to be a long way behind some of the other sports in terms of protocols and just in terms of the way how seriously they're taking concussion.

    "For me, it's a massive issue. We don't want to wait until a player has a serious injury that it might end their career or worse, we have a player die on the field or soon after because of a concussion issue that wasn't treated properly.

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    Hummels, who scored the winner when Germany knocked France out of the 2014 World Cup, had been in international exile since 2018, yet his return hardly went to plan as he turned into Germany's net 20 minutes into the Group F encounter.

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    Thomas Muller wasted an immediate chance to equalise, before Pogba seemed to complain Rudiger had bitten him, though the replays were inconclusive. 

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    Rabiot's chance kicked Germany into gear – Serge Gnabry's volley skidding off the turf and just over Hugo Lloris' crossbar.

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