Manchester City’s first-team head coach Pep Guardiola returns to action this week following a period of time away from duties
The 52-year-old stepped away from his training ground and touchline responsibilities during the final days of August, after undergoing emergency surgery on a back problem in Barcelona – where he remained for his rehabilitation process.
Juanma Lillo stepped in for Guardiola and guided the team to victories over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane and Fulham at the Etihad Stadium, maintaining Manchester City’s 100 per cent winning start to the new Premier League season.
Manchester City come into this weekend’s contest against West Ham at the London Stadium off the back of the first international break of the new season, and should see the large majority of their first-team stars return to action without any injury concerns.
However, Mateo Kovacic did sit out of Croatia’s two European Championship qualification matches over the past fortnight, with reports from local media suggesting that he had been suffering from a muscle problem in his back that could rule him out for up to 10 days.
Pep Guardiola and Manchester City will however be buoyed by the fitness of Nathan Ake, after the Dutchman was withdrawn in the first-half of a 3-0 win over Greece, but returned for the Netherlands’ second contest of the break without any further issue.
The positional availability of Matheus Nunes, Kyle Walker’s threat to Erling Haaland, and a triple injury blow to the first-team squad were among the topics addressed by Pep Guardiola during his press conference at the City Football Academy on Friday afternoon.
Here is every word from the boss ahead of the weekend’s clash as Manchester City look to pick up where they left off prior to the start of the recent September international break.
On his own personal health following back surgery
“Thank you for asking, I’m getting better. Three weeks after surgery, step by step every week will be better.”
On watching Manchester City from afar over the past two matches
“(It) Normally happens when you have surgery. (It) Was okay, Juanma (Lillo) and the players respond really well.”
On Kyle Walker’s new Manchester City contract
“Really important; from Nathan (Ake) and Bernardo (Silva) and Rico Lewis, Scott Carson to extend their contracts. Kyle (Walker) is an important player for us. (His teammates) demands he couldn’t leave, at the end he decides to stay. With his wife and family, it’s really important.”
On Kyle Walker’s longevity
“As much as his mind is there on the pitch, (it) is not a problem. His genetics, (there are) few players I’ve seen with that conditions. As much as he’s stable in his life, (it) will not be a problem.”
On Manchester City’s new captain
“He (Kyle Walker’s) already one of the captains. The vote will be in the next days and the players will decide the first captain and the other ones (in the leadership group).”
On Gareth Southgate’s comments about Phil Foden’s positional availability
“We cannot be one of the best if the mentality says he cannot be one of the best. Having a target, everything starts with the belief.
“I have admiration for Gareth (Southgate). (It) looks like I would disagree, but I agree with him. In the fact when we play outside, it’s a different role. He knows I know Phil (Foden) can play in all the positions, middle or outside.
“Gareth says the responsibility without the ball, (you) have to be so smart to know what happens. (What is) Important is he can play in the five positions, (it’s) a big advantage. I saw against Scotland, (he) starts on the right and moves inside.
“At the end (it is) not an issue. If we play higher, the responsibility is less. The mentality is he wants to be one of the best, this is a big advantage.”
On Manchester City’s fitness and injury situation ahead of West Ham (A)
“Both (Jack Grealish and John Stones) injured for tomorrow. I don’t know for Red Star (Belgrade in the UEFA Champions League). Step by Step. The injury for Jack is muscular but has an incredible knock for his knee and the damage is there. John is better but still has issues.”
“Something also muscular (with regards to Mateo Kovacic). Not a big issue, but also out for tomorrow.”
On Kyle Walker’s attitude
“I’m with Kyle (Walker for) seven years, we know each other without a doubt. Kyle, when he didn’t play, was tactical, never for bad behaviour. He wants to play, he talks with his mates and the club and decides (to stay at Manchester City).
“He has always been an important player, our success belongs to him. I was really sad to not let him play in the Champions League final. The way they play, the build-up with Manu (Akanji). Look at his response since then, the pre-season games. The commitment.
“He made me realise how important in the pitch. I spoke with the (team) mates; (they said) Kyle cannot leave. Really important in the locker room. He can make a step forward. Has specific qualities you cannot find in the world to control wingers.
“With the ball he’s getting better and after will compete with Haaland to score goals. Watch out Erling.”
On Manchester City’s contract announcement video for Kyle Walker
“It was a really good video, even with that our club is getting better (in the social media department). The guy who had the idea, chapeau, hats off.”
On Manchester City’s busy schedule
“First we have injury problems. We miss them but it is what it is. The season starts right now after the first international break. The transfer window is over, kids back to school. Everyone knows exactly in ten months what will happen. The fact that we have four wins from four in the Premier League, the Super Cup. The real season starts now, a lot of competitions. Go for it.”
On the signing of Matheus Nunes
“He can play in the holding midfielder, attacking midfielder, full-back with his physicality. He has to improve the first contact, first touch. Try with the ball like Kevin (De Bruyne), Kevin is incomparable. His energy, the balls in the last games as winger.
“The quality is so difficult to find. Dribble and make 10, 15, 20 metres. He will learn to be more precise in simple things, The way we train, he will get. He has the qualities a manager cannot improve which is so important.”