Mesut Ozil was not included in Arsenal's matchday squad for their Premier League clash with Manchester City on Wednesday.

Ahead of the Gunners' first match since the Premier League resumed amid the coronavirus, coach Mikel Arteta revealed he had a fully fit squad to choose from.

But World Cup winner Ozil was not included in the starting XI or named on the bench at the Etihad Stadium.

Arteta opted for a youthful line-up, with Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka joining Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in supporting Eddie Nketiah up front.

The unscheduled mid-season break allowed left-back Kieran Tierney to return to fitness and start for the first time in 2020, while Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette were among Arsenal's nine substitutes.

On the opposite bench, meanwhile, City winger Leroy Sane was involved after recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the season-opening Community Shield.

Sane has been widely linked with a move to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich but is available to first feature in City's run-in.

Record goalscorer Sergio Aguero also started from the bench for Pep Guardiola's side, as Eric Garcia was selected next to Aymeric Laporte in the centre of the defence.

Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling have used their platforms to make the world a better place, according to Pep Guardiola.

The Manchester City boss spoke of his admiration for the duo, citing them as prime examples of why footballers should feel empowered to speak out.

Manchester United forward Rashford led a successful campaign to force a U-turn from the United Kingdom government on the provision of free meals to vulnerable children during the school holidays, with the coronavirus pandemic having left many families in a worse plight.

Fellow England star Sterling has been vocal on the issue of racism, which has come into sharper focus globally following the death in police custody of George Floyd.

Addressing the critics who favour the response "stick to football" when players decide to take a stand, Guardiola said: "Maybe these stupid people don't believe you are human beings too.

"We can have an opinion the same as a nurse, a doctor or even a politician.

"We are humans and why shouldn't we say our opinion when you believe you can make a better society, when you are public?

"What Raheem Sterling has done many times, players in our club, Marcus Rashford or whoever, of course they have to use these platforms to make a better society.

"They don't need to get more money – fortunately for them they have enough – so they do it to get a better place to live, for their families, for our kids, for the next generations.

"So that is always why, when the people say it is not enough, of course it isn't but let's start from here. I admire these kinds of gestures a lot because they do it for all of us."

Guardiola's side return to Premier League action after a three-month absence with the visit of Arsenal on Wednesday.

David Silva will finish the season with Manchester City and hopefully receive a "proper farewell" later, manager Pep Guardiola said.

Silva was coming out of contract at the end of June, but the playmaker will see out the campaign with City, having confirmed this season would be his last at the Etihad Stadium.

And Guardiola hopes the 34-year-old, who has been at the Premier League club since 2010, can get a proper tribute at some stage, with games resuming behind closed doors.

"Yeah, David will stay until the end of season," he told reporters ahead of City's return to action with a clash against Arsenal on Wednesday.

"He will finish the last games without people, but hopefully he and the club can organise a proper farewell in front of people.

"Big clubs become incredible clubs when they make gestures to incredible players who have been here more than a decade. Like Vincent Kompany, Joe Hart, Yaya Toure … all these players, Pablo Zabaleta. Sorry for the names I forget, but they know who they are.

"The situation is what it is, no-one wants it, David especially. The club will make an agreement with David and do what they have to do."

City have a game in hand but are 25 points adrift of Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Mikel Arteta has considered the considerable weight his COVID-19 diagnosis might have had upon the coronavirus crisis in the United Kingdom.

Arteta will lead Arsenal against Manchester City on Wednesday, a fixture that was postponed on March 11, a day before the Gunners' head coach retuned a positive test for the deadly virus.

Thankfully, the 38-year-old made a full recovery but, with the UK's COVID-19-related death toll now in excess of 40,000, it is sobering to consider how much worse this grave situation might have been.

After City v Arsenal was called off, Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive and the pending weekend fixture schedule was axed before the season was placed on hold.

Without the red flag of Arteta's case being raised, it is possible a succession of mass gatherings would have taken place across the country at a time when the virus was already spreading rapidly.

"I have thought about it," he told a pre-match Zoom call, when it was mentioned projections from epidemiologists suggested the former City assistant might inadvertently have saved a number of lives.

"I thought about the night I started to have some symptoms, how serious that was. It was a matter that I could not make a decision on, it had to be reported because I could put a lot of people at risk.

"I wasn't willing to do that. I love this game but we have bigger responsibilities. I think we made the right call.

"You have to say the authorities and the Premier League did as well. They went really strong on that and I think I agree with you, it could have been much worse than that."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is set to feature for Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium despite consternation over his long-term future at the club.

Discussions over a new contract are yet to reach a satisfactory conclusion and Arteta's confidence when it comes to finding a resolution sat somewhat at odds with the frustration Aubameyang expressed when speaking to French television programme Telefoot over the weekend.

Champions League qualification would certainly ease future planning and the club's financial picture – they reported a £27.1million loss for the previous year in February.

"We haven't been able to achieve the goals that we want in the last three years," Arteta said, with Arsenal ninth in the table ahead of the Premier League's resumption, but still in the picture for a first top-four finish since 2015-16.

"There's a reason behind it and if we stand still, obviously, that gap will be getting bigger and bigger and I haven't come here to accept that.

"The challenge is to improve the players that we have and to improve the squad in the right positions, in order to give us the best possible chance and the tools that we need to compete at that level. It's getting higher and higher every year."

Arsenal's last away win against a "big six" club came at City in January 2015 – a sorry run that says much about their recent malaise.

"A club like Arsenal cannot be that long without winning if you want to compete with the big four, five or six teams in this country," Arteta added.

"We have to change that straight away. That is the way we will travel to Manchester, knowing how difficult the opponent is, how good they are, but focusing on what we can do and what we can control."

Pep Guardiola has defended Kyle Walker after criticism of the Manchester City defender's behaviour in the lockdown period.

The England international was reported by The Sun to have committed three breaches of coronavirus stay-at-home rules in 24 hours last month.

That came after he apologised in April for hosting a party with a friend and two women at his home in Cheshire.

City said at the time of the first allegations they were "disappointed" by the claims and would conduct an internal investigation.

Walker, 30, later said he felt "harassed" by the media attention on his private life, claiming his behaviour was being "scrutinised without any context".

It was claimed that in May he visited his parents and sister before lockdown rules were eased, and also took a bicycle ride with a friend.

City manager Guardiola said in a news conference on Tuesday: "I judge my players with what happens on the pitch.

"I think Kyle made a brave statement. What I want is the best for him and especially his family. His wife and kids, parents - that is what we want.

"As a human being that always goes first [rather] than the football player, and I think Kyle expressed his thoughts in his statement."

Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City team will be undercooked for the return of the Premier League because they were given "not enough" time to prepare.

The former Barcelona boss is poised to see his City team officially dethroned as champions by Liverpool, and on top of that says his stars are not up to handling the intensive demands posed by the restart.

Guardiola, whose mother Dolors died after contracting COVID-19, will take charge of City against Arsenal when English football resumes on Wednesday after three months in lockdown.

He is relishing the Etihad Stadium reunion with his former City number two Mikel Arteta, who left to take charge of Arsenal in December, and hopes they can enjoy a post-match drink together.

And while Guardiola is hopeful his team can be competitive, he says rotation of his squad over the remaining weeks of the season will be imperative.

City will be back in action on Monday against Burnley, and the games will come thick and fast after the condensing of the schedule.

"If you ask me how the team is, I don't know," Guardiola said. "Tomorrow we will see the level. From there, we are going to see and suggest what we can do better."

He said the big worry since teams were allowed to train again was the "lack of preparation" they were afforded before games returned - "not like in Germany or Spain where they worked five or six weeks".

"All Premier League teams have three weeks," Guardiola said. "Of course we know it is not enough but it is what it is.

"We are ready to play one game, but three days after another, four days after another, we are not ready. That's why you have to rotate. But we have to start, we have to finish the season, because the damage economically can be reduced."

The same circumstances seem sure to apply to Arsenal, who have not lost a match in domestic football in 2020.

Guardiola said he was "so excited" to see Arteta, describing his fellow Spaniard as "one of the nicest people I have ever met" and "an incredibly important part of our success".

He would love to be able to share an evening tipple with Arteta but was unsure if that would be permitted.

"We sent a message one hour and a half ago. I can't tell you what that message said. It's about the wine we're going to drink after the game, if social distance allow us to drink," Guardiola said.

Guardiola has had to grieve during football's absence, and he said: "All the people who have been lost are important."

And he stressed "not even the best scientists in the world" had realised what a toll COVID-19 would take.

"At the end, the Premier League like in Spain and Germany, like other countries, decide we have to play, so we are going to play. We are going to adapt as quick as possible," Guardiola added.

Kai Havertz leaving the Bundesliga for the Premier League has emerged as a strong possibility.

Chelsea and Manchester United are reportedly vying for the Bayer Leverkusen attacker's signature.

However, Bayern Munich could keep the Germany international in his homeland.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN IN POLE POSITION FOR HAVERTZ

Bayern Munich are favourites to sign Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz, according to the Telegraph.

The race is heating up for Havertz, who has been heavily linked to Premier League trio Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.

Real Madrid are also reportedly interested but Bundesliga champions Bayern are in pole position to bring the Germany international to Bavaria as they also look to sign Manchester City's Leroy Sane.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato says Milan are determined to lure Madrid forward Luka Jovic to San Siro. The Serbia international has struggled since swapping Eintracht Frankfurt for Madrid at the start of the season. Madrid want between €45 and €50million for Jovic and the report claims Milan could look to sell Rade Krunic, Lucas Paqueta, Andre Silva, Suso and Mateo Musacchio to raise funds.

- The front page of Tuesday's Diario AS claims Bayern will offer Achraf Hakimi a "galactic" salary to prise the Morocco international from Madrid. The full-back has spent the past two seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund.

United are leading the chase for Watford defender Pervis Estupinan amid interest from Tottenham, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, according to the Express. The Ecuadorian is on loan from Osasuna.

Juventus and Barcelona have entered the chase for Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, reports Corriere dello Sport. Milinkovic-Savic has been heavily linked to Paris Saint-Germain, as well as United.

- Sport says Pedro's proposed move from Chelsea to Roma has collapsed amid an internal fallout in the Italian capital. The veteran forward has now been offered to Valencia.

Chelsea will finalise a deal to sign RB Leipzig and Germany forward Timo Werner this week, the Evening Standard claims. Liverpool and United were also eyeing Werner.

- Sport Bild journalist Christian Falk reports PSG are interested in signing Bayern's Lucas Hernandez to replace departing defender Thiago Silva. PSG will not renew Silva's contract in the French capital.

- Falk also says Dortmund have not received any official offers for star Jadon Sancho, who has been linked to United, City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca.

Pep Guardiola has taken Bernardo Silva's game on to another level at Manchester City, according to former Portugal great Nuno Gomes.

Silva joined City from Monaco for £46.3million in May 2017 with a Ligue 1 winners' medal in his possession.

He has since been an integral part of the side that Guardiola has guided to six of the past seven major domestic honours on offer, including back-to-back Premier League titles.

Silva was voted City's player of the year in 2018-19 and went on to inspire Portugal to glory on home soil in the inaugural Nations League Finals.

Gomes told Stats Perform News he is a keen admirer of the 25-year-old.

"Bernardo is, for me at the moment, one of the best players that we have in Portugal," he said.

"With Pep he's improved a lot. I believe that Guardiola has said a lot of times that he is a massive fan of Bernardo Silva, and I believe Bernardo Silva, knowing that he has the trust and the confidence of the coach, he goes onto the field and he plays naturally, because he has a talent that is natural."

As he did during Monaco's run to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2016-17, Silva has excelled roving in from the right flank at City.

However, injury problems for Kevin De Bruyne last term meant he also spent a lot of time operating on the right of a central midfield three and Gomes feels the defensive side of the playmaker's game has come along considerably.

"He has improved also in terms of defending, the way that he pushes the opponent, [as well as] the way he can compromise [opposition] defensive situations, because with the ball he is one of the best," he added.

"I believe with Pep Guardiola, he has already improved a lot in his style of play, and I’m a big fan of Bernardo Silva."

Guardiola's men host Arsenal on Wednesday when the Premier League resumes from the coronavirus shutdown.

Liverpool are poised to end City's reign as champions, but Silva and his team-mates remain in contention in the Champions League and FA Cup.

Mikel Arteta is confident Arsenal can persuade star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to extend his stay with the club.

The 30-year-old's current deal at Emirates Stadium expires in June 2021 and he told French football programme Telefoot his next move represented a "turning point in my career".

Aubameyang also expressed frustration over the lack of progress on extension talks with Arsenal, where he has scored 61 goals in 97 appearances since joining from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.

"We have many discussions with Pierre, his family and his agent. I'm pretty positive we can find the right agreement with all parties," Arteta told a virtual news conference ahead of the Gunners' Premier League return at Manchester City on Wednesday.

"It's our responsibility to make him feel that this is the right next step in his career.

"For us to do that he needs to feel valued. I think he needs to feel that he belongs to us and we want him. and then he really needs to believe that we can take this club forward the way we want to do.

"He's going to be a key player to do that. At the moment I am extremely happy with how he's been performing and behaving.

"I have a really good relationship with him where we can discuss a lot of things face to face. So far, as far as I'm aware, I think he is happy at the club."

In terms of Aubameyang's frustrations over a delay in negotiations, Arteta suggested this could simply be an inevitable consequence of the coronavirus lockdown that made its presence felt throughout elite sport.

"In a different context we would have liked to do things much quicker," he added.

"We were really tight with time and communications as well.

"Obviously these unpreceded times bring a lot of uncertainty. Things are getting clearer and clearer every day that we are getting a step closer to playing football. I'm looking forward to it."

Sven-Goran Eriksson has urged Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne to stay at Manchester City and resist the temptation of Real Madrid.

City this week made their case in an appeal against a two-year ban from UEFA competition, after being found to have breached Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

The outcome of that challenge at the Court of Arbitration for Sport is reportedly not expected until July, by which time City's reign as Premier League champions is likely to have been ended by Liverpool.

If City are forced to miss two Champions League campaigns, such a blow could tempt their top players to look elsewhere. Madrid have been frequently linked with forward Sterling, while De Bruyne has hinted he would consider his future if the two-season ban was upheld.

Former City and England manager Eriksson says Sterling and playmaker De Bruyne can choose their own destiny, but cautioned that they are already playing at the highest level in domestic club football.

“Well, they will play for Real Madrid if they want to do it, but I would be disappointed," Eriksson told Stats Perform News.

"I don't know - I really hope they stay in England. When you look at it so far, and for many years now, the Premier League is the best league in the world, no doubts about that - most popular, the best league to see.

"Other leagues are good, but how many people are looking at Spanish football if it's not Barcelona or Real Madrid, maybe Atletico Madrid? I don't think many.

"Bundesliga, it's a little bit the same if [Borussia] Dortmund's not playing, if Bayern [Munich] is not playing, are you sitting looking at it? In England it's different because any team can beat any other team. It's good football and it's always a fight, a good fight in England."

To lose Sterling, De Bruyne, or both, would be a huge setback for City on the pitch, but Eriksson knows Pep Guardiola is just as important to the four-time Premier League winners.

Manager Guardiola has a year left on his City contract and has not ruled out signing an extension.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss appears likely to at least see out his current deal, having this week brought in his mentor Juanma Lillo as a new assistant coach, but much could still happen to change that.

"Of course it's important," Eriksson said of the Spaniard's future. "He's considered one of the best, if not the best coach in the world. He has been so for a long time.

"To lose him before the contract finishes would be bad for Manchester City: bad for the fans, bad for the players, bad for the club. Not sending out a good message.

"I hope they will do everything to try to keep him at least until the contract finishes."

Manchester City will likely learn the fate of their appeal against their Champions League ban in early July, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has announced.

The Premier League champions are seeking to overturn UEFA's decision to ban the club from European competition for the next two seasons and fine them €30million (£27.2m) after finding them guilty of Financial Fair Play regulations.

City's hearing at CAS began on Monday and concluded at 16.15 local time on Wednesday, with proceedings having been conducted by video call. The arbitration panel will now start deliberations before confirming a decision.

In a statement, CAS said: "The decision is expected to be issued during the first half of July 2020. The exact date will be communicated in advance."

City were punished in February after they were found to have committed "serious breaches" of UEFA's club licensing and financial fair play (FFP) regulations.

UEFA's independent Adjudicatory Chamber of its Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) also fined City €30m after finding they had overstated sponsorship revenues in accounts submitted to European football's governing body between 2012 and 2016.

City have persistently denied wrongdoing in relation to the matter, which stemmed from a series of articles published by Der Spiegel in November 2018, drawing on information purportedly obtained by the whistleblower Football Leaks.

"The club has always anticipated the ultimate need to seek out an independent body and process to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence in support of its position," read a statement at the time from City, who UEFA said had "failed to cooperate" with the investigation.

Manager Pep Guardiola is out of contract in June 2021, although the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss reiterated his commitment in the wake of UEFA's sanctions.

"Unless they sack me, which can happen, I will not leave," he said. "Why should I? I love this club, I like to be here, and after we have seen the sentence [appeal] we will focus on what we have to do.

"I want to stay to continue to help the club and maintain this level as long as possible. That's not just because I have a contract, we want to fight to the end for the people who support this club."

In an interview with HLN, star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne suggested he might be happy to stay at City in the event of a reduction to a one-year ban, although a two-year Champions League absence would force him to consider his options.

"I'm just waiting," he said. "The club told us they are going to appeal, and they are almost 100 per cent sure they are right. That's why I'm waiting to see what will happen. I trust my team.

"Once the decision is made, I will review everything. Two years would be long, but in the case of one year I might see."

Kingsley Coman insists he has no problem with Leroy Sane potentially coming in to compete with him at Bayern Munich.

Sane has been a long-term target of Bayern, with the Manchester City winger having reportedly been keen on a move to the Bundesliga giants.

A possible transfer at the start of this season was derailed by Sane suffering a major knee ligament injury in the Community Shield against Liverpool in August, which has kept him out for the entirety of the campaign so far.

Bayern president Herbert Hainer recently reinforced the club's interest in signing the 24-year-old, who has a year left to run on his deal at City.

Sane's potential arrival would likely see him competing with Serge Gnabry and France international Coman for a place on the flanks, yet the latter is not concerned about a new challenger for his spot in the team.

"When I came to Bayern Munich we had Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa and me, and I was still a young player, compared to the legends Ribery and Robben," Coman told Bild.

"You can see that that's not a problem for me, it is better for the team if there are many players at this level.

"If Sane came, it would not be a problem! Except the club says to me that they no longer need me, but I think the club knows what it has in me.

"The situation of Leroy Sane has nothing to do with my own future."

Manchester City and Bayern Munich are seemingly a long way apart when it comes to Leroy Sane.

Sane has been heavily linked with a move to the Bundesliga giants, although it seems City's valuation of the attacker is proving problematic for Bayern.

And, they are reportedly not getting much closer to a deal for the Germany international.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY, BAYERN STILL FAR APART OVER SANE

Manchester City are remaining tough with Bayern Munich over the transfer fee for Sane, according to Sky Sport.

Reports says City are hoping for €70million (£62.4m) for Sane, but Bayern are offering just €40m (£35.6m).

Sane, 24, left Schalke for City in 2016 and has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two EFL Cups with the club.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United may be considering their options. Tuttosport reports the Premier League giants are ready to make an offer for Juventus midfielder Federico Bernardeschi if they do not land Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

- Out of contract next year, Georginio Wijnaldum's Liverpool future has been questioned. However, The Guardian reports the Premier League leaders held positive talks with the midfielder and hope to extend the Netherlands international's deal for at least three years.

- Sergio Ramos is set to stay at Real Madrid. AS reports the club captain has agreed a one-year extension, taking his deal through until 2022.

- With his deal expiring at season's end, Thiago Silva looks likely to leave Paris Saint-Germain. ESPN reports the defender wants to stay in Europe and play for another top club for at least two more seasons.

- Jose Callejon appears happy at Napoli. CalcioMercato reports the attacker, out of contract at the end of the campaign, would like to stay at the Serie A club for at least another year.

- Valencia attacker Ferran Torres has drawn plenty of interest. According to Radio Valencia, Napoli have spoken to the LaLiga club about the 20-year-old, who has also been linked to Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund.

The master working as an assistant to the apprentice sounds like a strange fit but, in appointing Juanma Lillo as Pep Guardiola's number two, Manchester City have flipped the traditional order.

Of course, in terms of footballing success in the 21st century, there are few who can rank above Guardiola – whose innovative tactics have helped to inspire a generation of coaches, with his Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City piling up the trophies.

By contrast, Lillo, whose post in Manchester will be his 21st role in a nomadic coaching career that has taken him from his native Spain to Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Japan and China, has never lifted a major honour.

This, however, is largely irrelevant to the City boss, who earlier this year stated it gave a "bad, bad message" to judge coaches simply on the trophies they win.

It was hard not to imagine he was referring in part to Lillo – a tactician he holds in the highest regard.

"Juanma Lillo has played a significant role in Guardiola's career," wrote Marti Perarnau in his book, Pep Guardiola: The Evolution. "Johan Cruyff gave Pep his opportunity as a player and eventually promoted him to captain Barcelona, but it was Juanma Lillo who guided him through his transition from player to coach."

It is significant that Guardiola's biographer, who enjoyed inside access to his entire Bayern tenure, should rank anyone close to the great Cruyff in the prepping of Pep.

"You hear all these people saying, 'Oh Pep, what a good manager he is'. Forget about it. Cruyff was the best, by far," Guardiola told the Guardian in 2016. Lillo is in rarefied company in the City manager's affections.

AS JUANMA USED TO SAY...

A little known figure in English football overall, it is likely City's first-team squad are well aware of the man whose hands-on approach will soon be helping to hone their efforts on the training ground.

"Hardly a day passes without Pep making reference to the ideas of one of his two great mentors," Perarnau said of Guardiola's time at Bayern, much of which hinged – as did his early days at City – upon the ability to implement his methods outside of Barcelona's Cruyffian temple.

"At work, much of his conversation starts with, 'As Juanma used to say…'."

Now City's players will get to hear first hand such pearls of wisdom as: "The faster the ball goes, the faster it comes ball" – a snappy Lillo phrase Guardiola repurposed to persuade Bayern's players to invest in his playing style.

"They'd say, 'Who cares! Get it up the pitch right away, hit the ball long'," Guardiola told Perarnau. "It was a f****** pain in the neck to get it over to them and I had to explain it over and over again, as no doubt I'll have to in England as well."

As City were transformed from a trophy-less outfit limping to third in Guardiola's first season to the 100-point 2017-18 machine, it is impossible to imagine their players did not become well-versed in the teachings of Juanma Lillo.

MEXICAN SEND-OFF

This is the pair's first professional union since Guardiola opted to end his playing career in the unlikely location of Culiacan, Mexico, where he travelled to play under Lillo – a coach who become LaLiga's youngest at just 29 with Salamanca in 1995 and one he had long admired.

"There's only one thing that gives or takes away order in a game and that's the ball itself, so I like my players to be in lots of different partnerships but also strung across different areas of the field," Lillo told Perarnau when explaining his preferred playing style.

"If their passing is good, then we'll be moving our rivals all over the pitch and then you’re going to find free men easily because they'll either be forced to break up playing partnerships or string themselves out across the pitch.

"If the players don’t take time to construct play it will be difficult to get the ball to the right places up the pitch and then dominate the opposition."

Sound familiar? Lillo's approach basically amounts to an undiluted and entirely uncompromising version of Guardiola's juego de posicion.

It would be unfair to cast a man of such experience and strong opinions as a 'yes man', but Guardiola is essentially going to his tactical Rosetta Stone for the next phase and possibly last phase of his City career. The 2020-21 season will be the final year of his current contract and the first time he has ever started a fifth consecutive season at the same club.

DOUBLING DOWN FOR GLORY?

Vincent Kompany and Xabi Alonso were two of the names linked with the position of number two before Lillo's arrival. There was a common thread to be spotted between those two esteemed players of the modern era and Mikel Arteta, who left City to take the top job at Arsenal in December.

Lillo certainly represents a departure from that thinking. Any younger man appointed would have been lumbered with talk of being "Pep's heir". Does the apparent lack of succession planning suggest Guardiola putting down roots or clearing the ground for a tidy exit? The length of Lillo's contract was not disclosed, but he never tends to hang around anywhere too long.

It also feels like a move in step with the major pivot points in Guardiola's career, which circumstances suggest we have reached. City are set to have their recent domestic dominance ended by a formidable Liverpool team, as they also appeal against a two-year Champions League ban and look at how that might impact any squad refit.

When he took one point from his first two matches in charge of Barcelona, Guardiola was buoyed by Cruyff's blessing and pressed on with a blueprint that secured a LaLiga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble in 2008-09.

When Bayern's players persuaded their coach to take a more direct approach, only to be picked off and humiliated by Real Madrid in the 2014 Champions League semi-final, he swore 'never again'.

Mocked as a man who did not coach tackles as mid-season hammerings derailed 2016-17 at City, Guardiola played and pressed and passed some more until English football danced to his tune.

In adversity, he tends to double down. In the face of Liverpool's awesome opposition, Lillo's appointment suggests Guardiola's answer is to go Full Pep.

Juanma Lillo has joined Manchester City as assistant coach to boss Pep Guardiola.

Lillo's arrival ends City's search for a number two to replace Mikel Arteta, who left to take on the top job at Arsenal in December, with Rodolfo Borrell stepping up to assume extra duties in the interim.

Former captain Vincent Kompany and ex-Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso were among those linked to the post, although Lillo's appointment brings considerable intrigue given his long association with Guardiola.

The City manager concluded his playing career with a six-month spell under Lillo at Mexican club Dorados in 2006.

Guardiola's biographer Marti Perarnau described Lillo as an influence to rank alongside the late Johan Cruyff when it came to honing the famed playing style he enjoyed considerable success with at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now City.

"I am delighted to have joined Manchester City’s coaching staff," Lillo said after penning a deal that runs until 2021 – when Guardiola's current contract at the Etihad Stadium expires.

“My relationship with Pep goes back many years and I am thrilled to be joining him as part of this exciting team.

"Manchester City has enjoyed much success over recent seasons and played a brand of beautiful football we have come to expect from this club and its manager.

"It’s a pleasure to become a part of this group and I hope to make an important contribution to the club's success going forwards."

Lillo's most recent post was as head coach of Qingdao Huanghai, where he guided a side featuring City great Yaya Toure to promotion to the Chinese Super League.

His previous job in Asia was not as successful, with his Vissel Kobe team finishing mid-table in the J-League despite recruiting the likes of Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Lukas Podolski.

Lillo came to prominence in the mid-1990s, when he guided minnows Salamanca to LaLiga, becoming the youngest man to lead a team in Spain's top flight, aged just 29.

The last time he worked as a head coach his homeland was a stint in charge of Almeria, which ended with an 8-0 defeat at the hands of Guardiola's Barcelona.

A nomadic coaching career has also seen him serve as number two for Chile and Sevilla under Jorge Sampaoli – like Guardiola, a disciple of Marcelo Bielsa's methods.

City's director of football Txiki Begiristain said: "Juanma's vast experience working across three continents and with some of the most famous names in world football will be an invaluable asset to Pep and his team.

"We look forward to him playing a vital role as we return to football."

City resume their Premier League campaign after the coronavirus shutdown at home to Arteta's Arsenal next week.

They are poised to relinquish their top-flight crown to Liverpool, but still retain hopes of adding their FA Cup and the Champions League to a third consecutive EFL Cup, which they lifted in March.

However, City's future in Europe's top competition beyond 2019-20 is currently being decided, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing their appeal this week against a two-year ban for contravening UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations.

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