"We know how important he is in the present & past" - Pep Guardiola Pre Leicester Press Conference
Ahead of the Premier League's resumption this weekend following the last international break before September, Pep Guardiola spoke to the media to discuss Sergio Aguero's imminent departure this summer, the Blues' links to Erling Haaland, the 5-2 defeat earlier in the season and teenage sensation Liam Delap.
First for a team news update. Pep Guardiola said that the players were unable to train yesterday but will train this afternoon and that's when he'll decide his team for Leicester and evaluate how healthy the players are following the international break.
When asked about Sergio Aguero, Pep said that the club will miss him "A lot. We know how important he is in the present and the past. These decisions are never easy." On replacing him, Pep stated that there could be someone who could replace the numbers but not his legacy:
"I want to be clear, there is maybe we find a player to replace Sergio. In terms of number, he might be replaced but what he means to this club it's impossible."
City has been linked to Erling Haaland for months now but Pep said that City has more than enough assets in the club and "interesting players in the academy", and that with the world as it is now the club is "not going to sign a striker this season." Guardiola added more: "With the prices, we are not going to buy any strikers, it is impossible, we can not afford it. All the clubs struggling financially, us as well. We have Gabriel, Ferran who has been incredible, Raheem as a false-9. Today there is more chance we don't sign a striker."
Pep Guardiola was then asked about the significance of the Leicester defeat earlier in the season:
"No, Leicester game to West Brom there are many games in-between. They were incredibly organised and we struggled to get through them. They had three penalties and it's very difficult. Leicester is a top-class team. I am impressed. We were beaten and I congratulate them but it was a long time ago. Many things happen. We have to see today how the players have come back. I think everybody is fit, no injuries, and everyone has tested negative.”
“We are close to winning the Premier League and every game will be a final. I think the team will feel that and we're ready to try."
City has an extremely congested fixture list coming up over the month of April including a Carabao Cup final, FA Cup semi-final and Champions League quarter-finals. Pep was asked if he'll rotate and prioritise games, given the Premier League is wrapped up.
"I am going to rotate like I do all the time. Today I believe in modern football no player can sustain mentally or physically 11 months playing every three days. Tomorrow I am going to line up to win that game, that is my only concern. I'm not thinking of the Champions League. Leicester and United could still win a lot of games, anything in football can happen. Leicester is my only concern then after I'm going to think of Borussia Dortmund."
Kelechi Iheanacho has seen an impressive career revival over recent weeks and has five goals in his last three games, including two against Manchester United as Leicester knocked them out with a 3-1 victory. Pep Guardiola had plenty of praise for the Nigerian's improvement.
"Incredible. The quality was there, he was a young player here and I think with Gabriel we didn't have enough space. He is a fantastic person, we had a good relationship, and I'm glad to see him playing well. In the final third he has the right tempo, he is so clear in front of the goal."
And more on signing a striker, Pep said that:
"With the prices, we are not going to buy any strikers, it is impossible, we can not afford it. All the clubs struggling financial, us as well. We have Gabriel, Ferran who has been incredible, Raheem as a false-9. Today there is more chance we don't sign a striker."
Pep also mentioned the academy players when ruling out a move for a striker this summer, and spoke about Liam Delap and his improvement at the club:
"No no, Liam is training with us this season like what happened with Jadon but Jadon didn't accept to sign a contract with us. Many players are training with us and Liam is doing really well, we are in touch with Enzo and how they are doing. He is training with us and next season he will be training with us every day."
With all our European stars flying out to join their national teams, only Gabriel Jesus, Ederson, Fernandinho, Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake were left behind. Pep said:
"Six players, not much, I would prefer to have more but training was good. They had days off to rest. It's a tough season for us, a tough period, but it's the last part. There are two months ahead of us and we will continue to play."
On Leicester's tactics, the boss said that "Leicester can play different ways. He has the quality to do this. What I'm thinking I don't know. I will prepare my team for what will come but I don't know. It's in our hands to adjust." The boss also had praise for Leicester's midfield enforcer, Wilfred Ndidi, who has been a key figure for Rodgers' side.
"He is. You see all the players. Justin now is injured now unfortunately but all of them have great quality. Tielemans is a top-class player. I remember Vincent Kompany saying how good he was and as always he was right. They have top quality. Top class team. We have eight games left and they are third in the PL so it means they have done incredibly well, last season as well. They were champions with Ranieri and since then they have always been there. They lose players but they rebuild the team. It's not just for a half-season, it's for a long time really well."
That's all for now until the embargo is released at 22:30 BST tonight. All quotes were sourced from Manchester Evening News.