Pep Guardiola dismisses Alexis Sánchez rumours after Carabao Cup semi-final win

Manchester City beat Bristol City 2-1 in the first leg at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night but started the match without a recognised striker on the pitch, which led to unsurprising questioning.

Pep Guardiola dismisses Alexis Sánchez rumours after Carabao Cup semi-final win
Credit: Gareth Copley (Getty Images)

Pep Guardiola refused to comment on intensified speculation regarding the future of Arsenal forward Alexis Sánchez, after his side defeated Bristol City 2-1 in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.

Manchester City trailed at half-time, courtesy of a 44th-minute Bobby Reid penalty after John Stones carelessly mistimed his slide tackle and took out the striker, whose late strike knocked holders Manchester United out in the last round.

However, a 55th-minute Kevin De Bruyne equaliser and substitute Sergio Agüero's headed winner in the second minute of stoppage time meant they travel to Ashton Gate in two weeks time with a one-goal advantage.

Chance creation praised but calls for better finishing

Despite the positive result, Gabriel Jesus' worrying injury and Agüero's excessive workload meant that the Citizens didn't start the match with a recognised striker on the field.

Attacking duo Raheem Sterling and Bernardo appeared to alternate until the Argentinian frontman arrived with 20 minutes to go, and Pep Guardiola praised the number of chances they created.

"We created a lot of chances. Of course, we need [to buy] a central defender, but Sergio [Agüero] has had a lot of games with the situation that Gabriel [Jesus] is not fit [so we could look at an attacker as well].

"We have to protect [Agüero] a little bit, he's on fire and is scoring goals again, as always in his entire life he's scoring goals. but we created many chances in the first half.

"In the second half, we were right there and if you analyse how many times we shot on target, there was a lot and hopefully in the second leg we can have more accuracy and precision to score more goals."

Despite the lack of cutting edge on show up front, Guardiola insisted that both Sterling and Bernardo can lead the line in the future.

"They can play in that position, yeah. Bernardo's played there many times; last season and pre-season he played as the centre-attacking-midfielder and striker when we played five at the back.

"Of course, they can play there, but not naturally. They don't have the feeling for goals like Sergio and Gabriel but of course, they can play.

"And of course, Sergio could've played today, but with the number of games in the past and the future that we have, we had to try to rotate the team and get everyone involved."

 

Giving nothing away on the Sánchez front

The Spanish boss made sure to recognise his key players but seemed proud how he managed his squad and has rotated throughout the Carabao Cup.

"Except for David Silva, all the players have played in the Carabao Cup, all the players. You know how important Fernandinho is, but some players have a million minutes in their legs and he had, so that's why sometimes you have to use other options."

Manchester City have come back from behind at half-time to win on four out of five occasions this season, and Guardiola suggested that it's that attitude that wins you trophies.

"Well, it's fantastic. Without that spirit, you can't win trophies in any competition in the world. It's easy to handle the situation in the good moments but it's even better in the bad moments.

"Our team tries until the last minute and that's why we've succeeded so much in those situations and that's going to be important, I'd say essential, [especially] in the competitions like the Champions League."

When asked for an update on his reported interest of his former player at Barcelona, Alexis Sánchez, it's fair to say he kept his cards in his pocket.

"You work for Sky Sports where, I see, 24 hours you talk about the transfer window so I'm not going to talk about it, it's your job."