Pep Guardiola hammers home his Man City message to stars without needing any words – Simon Bajkowski


Guardiola picks same XI again

Predicting a Manchester City best XI usually feels like an impossible task because Pep Guardiola always rotates and with so many games there are always going to be changes.

A fortnight ago, he picked the same lineup for consecutive Premier League games for only the second time in his time at the Etihad, and the first time in four years. Here at Leicester, he picked the very same group for the third game in a row.

The chances of making it four against RB Leipzig are very unlikely because there will be players who are more fresh for that game – but it has been a clear message from the manager at the beginning of this campaign that the XI he has stuck with are the ones for the rest to try and dislodge from the team.

If you play well and train well, you stay in the team. If you don’t, you don’t.

Sterling and Mahrez must do more

The biggest losers from Guardiola’s decision have been Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez. One was one win away from being named the best player at the European Championship and the other was City’s best player by a country mile in pre-season. Both started the first match of the season at Tottenham but have had to be content with cameos since, given less than a half to show what they can do.

Sterling was given half an hour at Leicester as he replaced Torres. He made some useful runs and did well to set up Fernandinho at the death but could not find the finishes to make any kind of emphatic point.

Walker shows his enduring value

You really can’t put a price on Kyle Walker’s worth to this City side as the last defender.

He produced not one but two outstanding blocks in the eighth minute of the game from Leicester’s very first attack. As Jamie Vardy whipped a menacing ball into the box, Walker slid in and got enough on the ball to prevent Harvey Barnes from firing home. Then, with Ederson incapacitated from a boot to the face from Barnes, it was the England defender who got up and diverted Wilfred Ndidi’s shot away for a corner.

He did more of the same through the match in a performance that Guardiola has come to bank on.

Away fans terrific

It may still be the novelty of having fans back in grounds, but the City end were terrific at the King Power all afternoon.

Having been deafened pre-match by the PA system, once the game began it was those in light blue making all the noise and it was great to hear them rolling through their catalogue of songs and supporting the players through the 90 minutes.

How great too to see Bernardo running straight over to them and celebrating in front of the stand when he scored, a player with a real connection to the supporters getting to share such moments with them again.

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