Pep Guardiola admits that his decision to substitute important players during the second half of Manchester City’s victory over Leicester City could have been risky
Pep Guardiola admitted that his decision to make substitutions caused his Manchester City side to become nervous towards the end of their 3-1 win over Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Despite the nervy end, City managed to narrow the gap between them and Premier League leaders Arsenal to just three points. The victory was secured with two goals from Erling Haaland in the first 25 minutes, and an early lead given to the hosts by John Stones’ impressive volley.
After Manchester City had established a comfortable lead against their struggling opponents, Guardiola made the decision to substitute both scorers at half-time, with Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne, and Jack Grealish also coming off after the interval.
However, this move led to a tense ending to the match, as Leicester mounted an unexpected comeback attempt. Kelechi Iheanacho scored to make it 3-1, and then came close to scoring again when he hit the post. James Maddison also had a good opportunity to score but missed.
Asked if Leicester’s late onslaught had caused any nerves, Guardiola told Sky Sports: “Of course we were worried.
“It was 3-1 from our mistake and they had the chances with Maddison and Kelechi, so the game was tricky in the last 15 minutes. The first 60 or 65 minutes was good.
“I’d like us to push ourselves better and avoid what happened after 3-0, so we do not suffer, but it happened because of the substitutions. From my experience, when you do that, this happens.”
Guardiola asks his players to have the ‘right mentality’ in the season’s run-in
Guardiola explained that he had to make changes to the team during the game in order to keep his players fit, as they aim to win trophies on three fronts. City have now won nine games in a row.
“We started really well, with incredible focus, but at the end when you make a lot of substitutions at the same time, you always drop a little bit,” he said.
“If the guys from the second half started, it would be the same approach that we had in the beginning. It’s just a fact that playing every three days, we have to make a lot of rotations.
“I made just two [changes] in the beginning. When the game was under control, I made the rest.”
Manchester City will shift their focus to the Champions League, aiming to reach the semi-finals by defending a 3-0 first-leg lead against Bayern Munich.
Asked by BBC Sport if Bayern had a chance of overturning City’s advantage, Guardiola said: “Absolutely, we know that. We have to try our game and think we will win the game.
“We have to defend otherwise they have the rhythm. It’s a real tough opponent. We go there to achieve something unique, to reach a semi-final.
“We have to play with the right mentality, be stable in the bad moments and go for it.”