Chelsea’s next match is against Manchester City on Sunday, but before that, City play Arsenal on Thursday, which means that Pep Guardiola had to talk to his pals in the media on Wednesday. We eavesdropped, looking for injury updates and any signs of trouble we could clutch at desperately, like maybe that they would be forced to play their youth team as in that FA Cup match a couple years ago.
While that’s unlikely to be the case, City will definitely be without key midfielder Fernandinho, who is out with the hamstring he pulled in the 52nd minute of the Carabao Cup final last Sunday. Ilkay Gundogan is perhaps the most obvious next man up, but Guardiola didn’t sound too enthused of that possibility.
A less obvious possibility is Yaya Toure, who is in the Etihad doghouse again. He hasn’t played in seven weeks and hasn’t even been on the bench for the last five matches. Will he play on Thursday (or Sunday?). The answer is, apparently, quite metaphysical.
“Depends on him. It is simple like that. Depends on him. If he is coming back who he is, he is going to play.”
-Pep Guardiola; source Manchester Evening News
Does this have something to do with birthday cake again?
Another midfielder, though one who’s played mostly left back, is out for sure as well. Fabian Delph picked up a red card in City’s FA Cup loss to League One Wigan a week ago Monday and Chelsea is the last match of his three-match suspension. The loss to Wigan was only their second of the season, but reminded everyone of how ungraciously of a loser Pep can be with his tunnel bust-up with Wigan manager Paul Cook. That Guardiola then had the temerity to complain and whine about the tunnel cam recording it is pretty much peak-Pep.
In far more concerning news for us, five-foot-seven, 148-pound Raheem Sterling, the Terrific Termite, the Tiny Tornado, the Tad of Terror is in the picture for Sunday’s match.
“Raheem is much, much better.
“I don’t know if he is able to play tomorrow but hopefully Chelsea or Basel.”
-Pep Guardiola, source Manchester Evening News
Sterling had 20 goals in 30 appearances before suffering a hamstring injury in mid-February. He’s missed City’s last three games.
Other than injuries, the big topic of discussion was that yellow ribbon controversy. Pep’s wearing it in support of the Catalan independence movement, which is fine and well but against the rules of the FA and the league. The FA had already charged him with making a political statement on the pitch but the ribbon was once again visible in the Caraboa Cup final.
Pep plans to write a letter — going old school! — to the FA explaining that the ribbon was under his jacket and was only exposed inadvertently. (When has “I didn’t mean it” ever been a valid excuse?)
“Of course I’m going to write a letter, explain my position.
“I’m available for the FA absolutely, it’s no problem.”
In full schadenfreude mode over here, we can only say we hope it is a problem.
For Sunday, that is. After that, let the matter disappear. Because we need Pep to play his best side and go for three when he plays our competition for top four. Which he vows to do.
“The fact is we are fighting for the most important title of the season by far.
“The Premier League, more than the Champions League, more than FA Cup, more than Carabao Cup, is enough argument to be focused and to stay focused because our next six fixtures are terrible in terms of the quality of the opponents. We have four games and, of course, we have a good position but it is not already done. We have still to win five or six games.
”When you think about Arsenal, you think about Chelsea, Tottenham, [Manchester] United and our away games -- in Stoke City playing for the relegation, to go to Goodison Park where [Everton] always is [a] tough game -- so we have a lot of tough games still to play and we have to remain focused.”
-Pep Guardiola; source ESPN
More important than the Champions League? Well, more winnable, perhaps. But don’t gild the lily there, Pep.
All in all it’s nice to see that City aren’t completely untroubled, although their problems pale by comparison to ours.
What would be jolly nice, however, is if we could add one more for them on Sunday.