JACK GAUGHAN: Pep Guardiola can sense his Manchester City side are finally getting back to peak fitness and fitness… Phil Foden is dangerous again and Kalvin Phillips looks ready to contribute as they fight on three fronts
Pep Guardiola spoke of Phil Foden when he impressed that now is the time for Manchester City players to meet.
After a complicated period, almost not playing alongside for weeks, Foden is ‘back’ with three goals in two games and with the feeling that he is ready to face this disagreement by the back of the head.
City will see it as hugely encouraging that the 22-year-old has overcome foot problems and fallen from grace in what he described as the most difficult period of his short career.
A Foden shot is key, but for Guardiola, he needs everyone to time his rise towards peak fitness and fitness as deftly as an Erling Haaland running into the box.
This goes for substitutes as well. There are a maximum of 22 games to play this season if City go to Istanbul and a point will come when Guardiola needs to rely on the likes of Kalvin Phillips in a game of real significance.
Pep Guardiola insists he trusts Kalvin Phillips to cover Rodri
Phil Foden looks to be back at his best, scoring twice against Bristol City
Guardiola feels his team are finding peak form and fitness at just the right time
Phillips, whose debut against Championship team Bristol City on Tuesday was only his second since joining the club, has struggled with fitness. Like others before him, his first-year adaptation to City’s thinking wasn’t straightforward either.
“It’s not easy when you don’t play much,” said Guardiola. ‘He played more than well. It was important to give Rodri time (slack). We can trust him.
It will give Phillips a boost, especially after he was criticized by his manager at Christmas for gaining weight. And there’s something about really needing him – Rodri has appeared far too often so far in a highly demanding role. The workload would get the better of them.
Guardiola has always had to make risky selections in March or April and, fearing fatigue, usually saves them for the FA Cup semi-finals, which City have lost three times in a row. He needs to find a way to ensure that absolutely everyone is ready for this type of game – be it the cup or a crucial Premier League game between potential European ties.
“The FA Cup is so cool,” added Guardiola. ‘We won once, but we didn’t play well in three semi-finals. Mainly because there were only three days left for away games in the Champions League and we were exhausted. I hope that this season we can arrive in better conditions.’
There was special praise for Ruben Dias, who fought his way back into contention, Manuel Akanji, Bernardo Silva and Nathan Ake. Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez too. He can feel that everyone is getting there.
Kevin De Bruyne? He wants more and the following is proof that you can’t handle all personalities exactly the same.
“Kevin is back from illness, he struggled with his pace in the first half at Bristol,” said Guardiola. ‘The second half was the Kevin we know. In the first half he was so passive that he didn’t move. We told half-time that it’s not about staying in his position – he can move anywhere.
‘In the second half he won the second balls. In the first half he didn’t win any because he wasn’t there. After illness, you can lose it a little. We need his input.