Premier League: Pep Guardiola Backs Fernandinho Amid Manchester City Defensive Crisis
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been forced to play Fernandinho as a centre back due to injuries to John Stones and Aymeric Laporte
Pep Guardiola played down concerns over 34-year-old Fernandinho's ability to cope with a high workload as he juggles his stretched defensive resources for Tuesday's Champions League match against Dinamo Zagreb. City are missing John Stones and Aymeric Laporte and the manager was forced to field the makeshift pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and midfielder Fernandinho in central defence against Everton on Saturday. The Premier League champions had some shaky moments defensively at Goodison Park but emerged 3-1 winners to keep the gap to Liverpool at five points.
"If he is fit he can play (twice a week)," Guardiola said on Monday about Fernandinho. "It depends on him in terms of physical regeneration."
"When Stones is back we will have an alternative," he added. "Last season he started to struggle towards the end of the season. The previous season, he played every three days."
Midfielder Rodri said the spate of defensive injuries was not an "excuse" for City, who won their Champions League opener 3-0 away to Shakhtar Donetsk.
"We have enough players to fit this problem," he said. "We have players who can play in many positions like Fernandinho and (Oleksandr) Zinchenko. It's a tough time for the team but it will make us stronger."
Guardiola also had warm words for Riyad Mahrez, who impressed in the 3-1 win against Everton and has been directly involved in 17 goals in his past 17 starts for City in all competitions.
"He's been so decisive, clinical. Defensively his commitment is higher this season and offensively every time he has the ball you have a feeling he is going to create something," said the City boss.
"Hopefully he can maintain that level for a long time."
Guardiola also believes his side need to make their supporters, who have had a love-hate relationship with UEFA competitions, excited by the Champions League, which they have never won.
"We have to seduce them. The only way to seduce them is winning games and playing good," he said.
"The Premier League here in England is the most exciting. We make a poll and fans prefer that. But this competition is also good."