Guardiola

Pep Guardiola has explained the tactical decisions he considers when whittling down his five Manchester City centre-back options to two starters in each game.

Guardiola has five fit centre-backs at present, but only two starting spots in his line-up, although he has been able to play another at full-back while Kyle Walker is out.

Manuel Akanji has started well since signing in the summer, while Nathan Ake is in his best form as a City player. The pair are competing with Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and John Stones for a place in Guardiola’s line-up, with the manager insisting on Friday that all five options could play every game if they had to.

However, with such a wealth of options, Guardiola explained how he adapts his two centre-backs for the tactical challenges he expects with each fixture, while also trying to keep all players as happy as possible.

He explained: “Sometimes you suspect we will need more the build-up for the way maybe they defend, another one win more duels to have more characteristics to win more duels defensively. Rotation too, I want everyone involved, there’s not much difference between them. All of them are really good, everyone has their own skills. It’s not a big difference between them.”

Going further into his decision-making, Guardiola disagreed that Dias, for example, would be picked in bigger games for his experience and level of performance.

“Not specifically, Ruben is reliable 100 per cent since he arrived,” Guardiola said. “But now we have Manu, John, we don’t have Kyle [Walker] but even he can play centre-back, I rely on all of them, I don’t have a specific issue for this one. Always is how they perform, how they communicate with each other, the players who win more individual duels or other ones pay attention more in the line, with his full-back or the holding midfielder.

“Everyone has his skills. Sometimes I believe who I need more today for that reason over another one. But everyone can play all the games in different circumstances. They have proven it in the past, so it’s not a problem.”

And Guardiola also had plenty of praise for midfielder Rodri, too, saying the Spaniard can get even better than the level he is currently playing at.

“The reality is he make an incredible step forward as a player since he arrived, make an incredible, incredible step forward,” Guardiola said.

“I have the feeling he can still improve, sometimes he relies a lot on his physicality, arrive in many in situations he still has to understand what the game demands in every moment. His type of age and energy, he will improve. he’s so important for us, he’s a huge competitor in important games. We are very. very pleased.

“He’s one of the best [in his position] by far, I don’t like to say the best because I like to push them, we know he can be better. We talk about that, perform your best every day, thinking to be better today than yesterday, but the reality is being there every day. He played the second half [vs Sevilla], his impact with Gundo was really good. He did really well.”

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