Pep Guardiola addresses Man City’s defensive crisis ahead of Real Madrid second leg as Walker & Stones in doubt – Sport Media News

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Kyle Walker’s season could be over after the City right-back was ruled out of the next two games. The England star was rumoured to have trained in secret ahead the midweek meeting against Real Madrid – but he was not in the squad for that match.

City manager Pep Guardiola had already ruled him out of a return against Leeds on Saturday and he will not be fit for the second leg against Real at the Bernabeu on Wednesday. His absence has caused City a headache, but that should ease for the next two games as Joao Cancelo – suspended for the Champions League test – can return to fill in at right-back with Oleksandr Zinchenko or Nathan Ake playing at left-back.

Guardiola has moved to reassure Jack Grealish that he still has a big part to play for City this season. City made the £100million player Britain’s record transfer last summer when they splashed out a massive nine figures to recruit the Aston Villa captain and England team favourite.

Grealish has had a bright start to life at City but hasn’t made the seismic impact expected with such a large fee. Although there have been many good performances they haven’t translated into great numbers, with just five goals and three assists to his name this season.

The 26-year-old has seen himself slip down the pecking order as of late. In recent matches against Atletico Madrid, Liverpool and Real Madrid, Grealish has been named on the bench and he didn’t even come on as substitute in their last two Champions League outings.

Pep Guardiola has addressed Manchester City’s defensive crisis ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid next week, with Kyle Walker and John Stones both doubts for the heavyweight clash.

City earned a 4-3 victory over Madrid in the first leg of their last-four tie, thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva.

Walker was absent due to an ankle injury, while the Premier League champions conceded two of Madrid’s three goals after Stones hobbled off with a knock, and Guardiola is not sure whether he’ll be able to count on either man at Santiago Bernabeu.

The City boss has confirmed that Walker and Stones will both miss their next Premier League outing at Leeds on Saturday.

Fernandinho filled in at right-back against Madrid at the Etihad Stadium and could be asked to play that position again at Elland Road and in the Spanish capital next week.

“I don’t know right now [whether Kyle Walker will play again this season],” Guardiola said at a pre-match press conference.

“He’s injured – unfortunately for all of us and him especially – but I don’t pay attention. He has to work to come back as soon as possible. I am focused on the rest of the players.

“For tomorrow John is out and we will see for Wednesday.”

Guardiola went on to discuss Jack Grealish’s current role in his squad, with City’s club-record signing having had to be content with a place on the bench in recent games against Atletico Madrid, Liverpool and Real.

The Spaniard insists that Grealish remains a key part of his plans and has explained why he has sometimes favoured the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Foden ahead of him.

“He can [still have a big part to play this season], nothing changes,” Guardiola said of the midfielder. “Just because in that position, Riyad [Mahrez], has important games gives us something unique, [Phil] Foden is so determined.

“Just that reason, Raheem — everyone knows how important he is, but I decide not because they are bad. Always I have the feeling with Phil and Riyad they can create chances, sense to score a goal.

“Sometimes we need Jack or Raz [Raheem Sterling], it’s not that I am not satisfied.”

Manchester City have yet another massive Premier League fixture when they travel to Leeds United on Saturday evening.

Pep Guardiola’s side could kick off in Yorkshire in second place should title rivals Liverpool be victorious over Newcastle United in the day’s early kick-off, adding yet more pressure to the match. City did smash Leeds 7-0 at the Etihad earlier this season but a packed Elland Road will be a different proposition, as they found last season when they were held to a 1-1 draw there.

Leeds have also enjoyed an upturn in form since Jesse Marsch took over from the sacked Marcelo Bielsa and are undefeated in their last five fixtures. A run that includes three victories.

The Blues go into the match off the back of a thrilling but exhausting 4-3 victory over Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final and Guardiola will still be without the injured Kyle Walker while John Stones has also been ruled out after he lasted just 36 minutes into his rushed return against Madrid.

Joao Cancelo is available again, however, after he was suspended in midweek.

MEN Sport writers have selected the side they think should play against Leeds and you can choose your own in the widget below.

Stuart Brennan

Guardiola has proved adept at rotating his team just enough to win games but keeping important players fresh from game to game, and he will have to pull another rabbit out of the hat for this one. The absence of Walker is a pain, but Cancelo is available again after suspension in midweek so he can be asked to play in both games.

No need to risk Stones, who is a doubt, and Oleks Zinchenko can be asked to go again, with a view to the more defence-orientated Nathan Ake playing left-back in Madrid on Wednesday. Further forward, there are lots of options, but a job-share between Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan stepping in and Fernandinho playing in his more familiar holding role are big options.

Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling can also come in, while Gabriel Jesus will not be feeling the fatigue after a fabulous week for him.

Joe Bray

With Stones and Walker out, and doubtful for the Bernabeu, keeping the defence as fresh as possible should be the priority. Cancelo should come back, and I’d also play Ake who has been in good form recently. Aymeric Laporte can get a rest, with a possible view to substituting Ruben Dias later in the game.

Fernandinho played an hour on Tuesday, but it’s more important to rest Rodri for next week, while it’s probably De Bruyne’s time for a rest ahead of the Madrid trip. Bernardo and Gundogan would expect to start on Wednesday too, but De Bruyne is the more important at the moment to give a rest to.

In attack, Grealish and Sterling seem obvious choices to come in, with Jesus in good form so he can continue to look for a sixth goal in three outings. The likes of Cole Palmer and Liam Delap should be used off the bench to keep as many players fresh as possible for next week.

Daniel Murphy

There is no doubt that Leeds is a massive match but Guardiola will have to manage his squad somewhat ahead of what is set to be another epic clash with Real Madrid on Wednesday just a few days after the last one. As a result, I would rest both Phil Foden and Bernardo, with the latter especially showing the wear of a long season.

In their place I’d bring Gundogan into midfield to help control the game against an energetic Leeds, with Grealish coming in on the left of the attack. I’d also start Sterling through the middle with Jesus making way.

Cancelo has to come straight back into the side at right-back after his suspension since there’s no other real options but I would bring Ake in at left-back in order to refresh Zinchenko.

Manchester City celebrated their Premier League 2 title in devastating style at the Etihad with a seven-goal performance led by the irresistible Cole Palmer.

With the title secured last week, this was a celebration at City’s main stadium, and Palmer’s effortless quality could prove to be a problem for the Blues this summer. He was sensational in the first half against Everton on Friday night, with Liam Delap and Kayky following with statement performances of their own after the break.

When City have finished celebrating their second successive title, this performance will be used as evidence of how far some of these youngsters have come. For Palmer, and maybe a few others, their future at under-23 level is surely limited.

Everton must have feared the worst as they arrived at the Etihad, with Palmer, Delap, Kayky, James McAtee and Sam Edozie in a formidable frontline. There was no easing off from City despite having the title in the bag.

Yet, for all City’s typical early dominance – with Kayky, Palmer and Edozie having efforts – it was Everton who could have taken a two-goal lead. First, Charlie Whitaker’s lovely volley hit the crossbar, before Mikki van Sas was caught in no-man’s land as Lewis Dobbin rounded him 30 yards out and his cross for Tom Cannon required Shea Charles to hack off the line. At the other end, as City responded, Delap’s effort hit the post and Kayky’s rebound was the second effort in the contest to be cleared off the line.

For all City’s usual possession-based dominance, they were open to the counter. But with so many quality players in this line-up, it wasn’t long before one produced a moment of magic to calm things down. Unsurprisingly, it was Palmer to break the deadlock as he took one touch to control and make space for a lovely curled effort into the bottom corner from 18 yards.

It was a fine finish made better by the effortlessly-simple first touch that not many under-23 players will be able to produce under pressure.

Palmer had arguably outgrown under-23 football last season, and his role as a first-team player this season proves that. It’s a credit to Palmer that he has volunteered to play for the EDS whenever he can this season – even on the same day as his Premier League debut. They wouldn’t refuse his services next year, although it’s hard to see how contests like this will continue to benefit him when he is clearly a cut above his opponents.

Just like Tommy Doyle and Taylor Harwood-Bellis over the last year, the time comes when a young player needs to step up. The same was evident of Phil Foden, with City choosing to develop him in the first team rather than out on loan. Any scouts watching Palmer at the Etihad will hope that he is available in the summer, as he casually set up Rico Lewis for City’s second on the half-hour mark in another reminder of his quality.

As everyone looked left, Palmer flicked a lovely ball into the overlapping path of Lewis inside the area, for the full-back to rifle a shot into the roof of the net from a tight angle. And when Palmer stepped up and stroked a sumptuous free-kick into the top corner shortly after, the crowd were in disbelief. It was his third goal in 90 minutes since returning from injury, as well as his two assists.

Palmer was running the show, yet barely breaking out of a jog, as he moved around the Etihad with the strut of a player who knows just how good he is. This might turn out to be his final game as an U23 player, but on this showing, it definitely won’t be his last outing at this stadium.

Brian Barry-Murphy said after the title was sealed at Leeds that while the U23 season ends tonight, the campaign is not over for these young players, who will be needed to support the first team in their quest for the Premier League and Champions League. McAtee was replaced at half-time, as was Luke Mbete, perhaps with Saturday’s Premier League clash in mind, while CJ Egan-Riley got a second-half run-out as he is currently one of only two fit right-backs at the club.

The first team will always be the priority at this club, even with the academy winning trophies, so the senior coaches will have been happy to see a number of players show their form at this crucial stage of the season. It’s unlikely that Kayky will get any more first-team appearances in his debut campaign at the club, but he is another who will be knocking on the door of the first team next season like Palmer.

When he played a smart one-two with substitute Oscar Bobb to finish from a tight angle, City had four and Kayky had his first goal at the Etihad. It’s been a slow and steady start to life in England for the Brazilian, but he’s ended the season well and is another who looks like U23 football will only prove to be beneficial to a certain degree.

McAtee and Lavia were both quietly impressive in their respective roles, and they will hope to have more opportunities next season. Whether that is in the under-23 league or elsewhere is a discussion to be had upstairs in the summer, but there will certainly be plenty of interest. The likes of Bobb, Edozie, Lewis and Tomas Galvez will be looking to step up further in this age group next season and become the next players to be considered genuine first-team options if others depart.

Delap is another who is bound to attract interest for loans. His season has been disrupted by injury, so he could have been forgiven for hoping this youth campaign had a few more weeks left. Still, in the last three games he has not stopped running, with a late goal at Leeds to seal the title and two well-taken finishes in this second half.

First, he tapped in Kayky’s good cross after shaping to shoot, and then he swept home from Bobb’s pass after the winger had easily beaten his man. With Julian Alvarez and possibly another striker coming in this summer, Delap’s path to the first team may be limited. He’s clearly not let those injuries stop his goalscoring talents, so will another season scoring hatfuls for the academy really help?

Whatever happens to the make-up of the squad, Barry-Murphy noted this season how everyone had a mutual respect for one another even if only a small percentage of the group would have first-team futures at the club. It was telling that a number of past and present EDS players were supporting their friends in the stands, as a reminder that these back-to-back titles have been real squad efforts.

Darko Gyabi may look to be one to take advantage of some players moving onwards or upwards, so he did his chances no harm by twisting and turning to fire in a seventh after only 74 minutes. Bobb nearly made it eight late on, although he will settle for his 11th and 12th assists of a fine breakthrough season at this level and should be a key player for the EDS next season whatever happens to his teammates.

This occasion will be about celebrating the title win after another successful season, and when the senior team are finished with their campaign, attention will turn to next season for this immensely talented group. For some, that future should continue at a much higher level than under-23 football.

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