Soccer Football – Champions League – Manchester City Press Conference – Etihad Campus, Manchester, Britain – March 11, 2019 Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan and manager Pep Guardiola during a press conference Action Images via Reuters/Lee SmithPep Guardiola says he “absolutely” does not agree with midfielder Ilkay Gundogan’s scathing assessment of Manchester City’s performance in their midweek Champions League defeat to Tottenham.
City face Spurs twice more in the next week, in the return leg of the European quarter-final and in a home league game, as they chase an unprecedented quadruple.
Gundogan accused City of not being brave enough in the 1-0 first-leg defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday, in which Sergio Aguero missed a first-half penalty.
But Guardiola, whose team are second in the Premier League, two points behind Liverpool, strongly rejected the German international’s analysis.
“I don’t agree with him. Absolutely not,” said the City boss.
“There are games when we concede a goal and we are not there, but in this case, we conceded a goal and nothing happened. Especially in the second half, it was under control.”
Guardiola said his side, who have a game in hand over Liverpool in the title race, did not concede many shots on target, even if he acknowledged they did not create many chances themselves.
“We defended the set-pieces when they are so strong and after when we conceded a goal there were 10 minutes left and nothing happened,” he said. “We were there and in control, in that situation.
“Of course we want to do well, especially in the Champions League but in that case, in this specific game I don’t think I agree.”
Gundogan’s surprising analysis of City’s defeat clearly did not sit well with Guardiola, who used much of his press conference ahead of Sunday’s Premier League visit to Crystal Palace responding to his player.
“He can say whatever he wants,” Guardiola said. “I like when they express what they believe, but it’s happened many times in my career in specific games when they lost a little control.
“We have been for 20 months incredible, two games in the last 24 lost.Twenty months, winning every three days, 180 points over the past two seasons.
“Regarding this specific game, it did not happen. We were stable. Of course, the competition is tough and the opponents are good. Look at how many chances the teams create.”
Guardiola said City had controlled Spurs “quite well” with a lower tempo and did not want to concede counter-attacks.
“They were stronger than us. We had two days’ rest, they had six,” he said.
“They can punish us. We decided to play a different type of game. Unfortunately, we couldn’t score but we have the second leg with our friends at home and we’ll go for the semi-finals.”
Guardiola may have Bernardo Silva and Oleksandr Zinchenko back from injuries for the visit to Palace, a team who produced a major surprise by beating City at the Etihad in December.
But the City manager was in no mood to make negative comments about his side, even if he expects a tough challenge against Roy Hodgson’s team.
“We knew it weeks ago, how it would be between these important games,” said Guardiola. “Selhurst Park is always difficult because of the stadium and the quality of the players.
“There are six games left (in the league). We know what we are playing for and we are going to see.”