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Guardiola’s case for the defence

WATCHING BRIEF: Pep Guardiola keeps an eye on proceedings during the game against Burnley

WATCHING BRIEF: Pep Guardiola keeps an eye on proceedings during the game against Burnley

Pep Guardiola hailed City’s ‘special goalkeeper’ and ‘four incredible central defenders’, after the Blues kept a fifth consecutive Premier League clean sheet in the triumph over Burnley.

While the attacking stars hit the headlines, with five different players on target, Guardiola hailed his defensive troops – in particular, their versatility, as John Stones filled in at right-back in the injured Kyle Walker’s absence.

“I would say we have four incredible central defenders,” he told press.

“When Nicolas Otamendi has played, and Vincent Kompany and John Stones, it is always a good level. That is a good sign for the team.

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“Hopefully, he [Walker] can come back in Donetsk but he came back from England with pain in his abductor and groin. I think it happened there [on international duty].

“He complained he did not feel good. That’s what he said when he came back.

“We don't have many options. If John can’t play there, maybe Oleks Zinchenko can but he is left-footed.

"I congratulated John in the locker room because I know it’s not his position. He cannot play as an attacking midfielder, a winger or a striker... no way! But it’s good for young players to play different positions. It makes him understand the game.

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“I think he can play as a holding midfielder, because we have just Fernandinho. He can play in different positions. We cannot forget he is 24 years old. He has a long career in front of him."

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Guardiola also reserved praise for Aymeric Laporte, who has played the most outfield minutes for the Blues this season.

“It’s not possible to do what we did last season without Nico, but Aymeric Laporte didn’t have a World Cup so he arrived fresh in top condition and he has a left foot," the manager stated.

“He helps us to make our build-up. When the ball comes from the right, he controls from the left. Playing with Leroy Sane, it's quicker to play with the right foot in that position.

"Even when he drives, he can play the ball to the middle - to Riyad Mahrez, to Raheem Sterling - or to the right side. He makes our game quicker.

“It’s important to have central defenders on the left. He is fit and training every single day. He is professional - so serious - and playing at a good level. We trust [in him]a lot in this moment but the season is so long."

With Ederson staking another strong claim for the Golden Glove award, Guardiola added he has been impressed with the way his shot-stopper has remained focused in games where he has little to do.

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City 5-0 Burnley: Brief highlights

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"It’s not easy but Eddie is a special ‘keeper,” he continued. “At Anfield, we only conceded one shot on target – [against Burnley], not one.

“We were solid. We cannot win games if we are not solid.

“We create on average 20 shots per game – that is pretty good, especially after the 100 points season. People can believe how good we are. Now, people have settled again, they are focused and that is important.

"We have played just nine Premier League games but this [form] is the way we want to stay until the end of the season.

“The Champions League now is a different competition and every game is a Final. We will play in Donetsk like it is a Final.”

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