Pep Guardiola

'Guardiola Knows A Strong Team Is Required At Leicester'

Pep Guardiola may rotate at Leicester City on Saturday ahead of a busy week, but will be respectful of the Foxes' top-four credentials, says Manchester Evening News journalist Stuart Brennan.
More on this story...

- Manchester Evening News journalist Stuart Brennan previews Saturday's clash between Leicester City and Manchester City at King Power Stadium
- The two sides are separated by just four points in the Premier League standings
- Man City face Real Madrid on Wednesday before the Carabao Cup Final against Aston Villa on Sunday
- However, Brennan believes Pep Guardiola won't take risks with his selection in Leicester

The reigning Premier League champions visit King Power Stadium for a 5:30pm GMT kick-off on Saturday ahead of facing 13-time winners Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.

Following that Round of 16 first leg tie at the Santiago Bernabéu, Guardiola's men will then contest the Carabao Cup Final against Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium.

It's a busy week for the Etihad Stadium outfit, but considering Leicester's recent performances, and their third-place standing in the league, there's no doubt in Manchester about their quality.

"They've got the greatest of respect for Leicester, I know Guardiola certainly has," Brennan, MEN's Chief Manchester City Writer, said. "Everybody's got affection for Leicester after what they did in 2016.

"Even fans of the so-called elite clubs, or the clubs who are expected to be at the top, quite enjoyed that season, even though they all got their noses shoved in the dirt.

It's happened to Man City before, under Pep of course, so he's knows he has to put out a strong team if his side are going to come away with anything from a difficult match.

Stuart Brennan Manchester Evening News

"It was a lovely story, but beyond that, maybe that was a little bit patronising and Leicester have proven that it wasn't just a flash in the pan. They're a superbly-run club.

"They've again produced a team that can compete for a top four place, so there will be huge respect there. They win games which you might say they don't have a right to win.

"For that reason, even though there will be some rotation, Pep won't put out a second XI because he knows, if he did that, he would probably get a good thrashing at King Power Stadium.

"It's happened to Man City before, under Pep of course, so he's knows he has to put out a strong team if his side are going to come away with anything from a difficult match."

Man City go into Saturday's King Power Stadium encounter after two successive defeats, to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, but Brennan doesn't see too many reasons for alarm.

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The loss to city rivals United came with Guardiola's men already leading comfortably on aggregate in the Carabao Cup, while they were unfortunate at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the Premier League.

İlkay Gündoğan had a first-half penalty saved in the capital, before Oleksandr Zinchenko was dismissed later on as José Mourinho's men sealed victory.

"They haven't been playing badly at all, in fact they've been playing very well," Brennan added. "They were excellent at Spurs, created all the chances, but just couldn't put them away.

"As has happened to Man City at times, Tottenham had only a handful of chances and two of them got put away so they ended up losing out.

"Obviously there was a missed penalty along the way and the red card really changed things, but I thought Man City played really well at Spurs. 

"It was similar against Manchester United. They didn't play as well, but they still dominated the game and really should have won it.

"It's the story of the season, really. All the slip ups have been like that. It's not that they've been playing well and in any other season, they would be in title contention.

"Despite playing well for most of the season, they've been held up against the template of the last two seasons, which were absolutely fantastic."

Asked if rotation may occur, meanwhile, Brennan added that, while Man City are fully aware of Leicester's firepower, it is natural ahead of such an enormous week in their season.

"It'll have to," he continued. "There are players there that we know can't really play three games a week, like Fernandinho and David Silva.

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"Real Madrid, in particular, is such a huge game for Man City, given everything that's gone on. They're out the race for the Premier League, so there's a lot on that game.

"Then it's the League Cup Final and getting some silverware this season is obviously important and that's the best chance of getting some.

"They've got a good squad and they've got some good players coming back, like [Aymeric] Laporte, and Zinchenko will be available.

"Raheem Sterling's getting close, Leroy Sané's getting close too, so the options are opening up a little bit at an important time, but there will be rotation, for sure."

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