Pep Guardiola admits Manchester City may have got lucky at the back last week – but is not “crying” over his lack of defensive options.
City are currently utilising midfielder Fernandinho as a makeshift centre-half as John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are both out injured.
Since former captain Vincent Kompany left the club at the end of the last season, the champions have been light in the position, and Nicolas Otamendi is now the only fit senior specialist.
Teenagers Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis provide further options and are in Guardiola’s thinking, but he has been reluctant to expose them in the Premier League.
“I’d prefer to have John Stones and Laporte back,” said Guardiola ahead of Sunday’s home clash with Wolves. “Against Everton we were lucky – Ederson saved us in two or three clear chances.
“But it is what it is. I said when it happened that we couldn’t be crying or complaining and that we were going with the two guys that we had, and the two young players had an opportunity.
“Right now we don’t concede (goals) but tomorrow we could concede five, so the important thing is to concede few chances.
“Against Dinamo Zagreb we didn’t concede a shot on target, and that is our strong point in all competitions. We are a team who, in Europe, concede few, really few chances.
“That is good, but we have to improve so when they get those chances – one, two or three in a game – we have to avoid them being clear, clear chances.
“We have to be more solid but, for a team with this number of incredibly-talented players who are not defensively talented players, it is good.”
As well as being restrained in his use of his young defenders, Guardiola also continues to use Phil Foden sparingly.
The City boss regularly praises the young midfielder but the 19-year-old remains down the pecking order in a star-studded squad and he has featured just four times this season, starting only once.
Guardiola says that is only natural when a team that won the treble last season is again competing on multiple fronts.
He said: “This team needs to win titles and prizes and the process for the young players needs time.
“The best way is step by step for the players (because) the demand for the club is not (just) win the Champions League, but be there all the time in four competitions.
“The talent is there and when they have talent they will play, but at the same time we have to compete every single day to fight with the best teams in England and Europe.
“For that, we need the David Silvas, Kevin De Bruynes, Sergio Agueros, Fernandinhos and all these type of players.
“The young players can help the other ones but it is not possible (to rely on them too much).”
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Chelsea and Frank Lampard are preparing for the unknown at Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday, but they could have a trick up their sleeve too.
The Blues started with a 3-4-2-1 system against Lille in the Champions League on Wednesday and recorded an impressive 2-1 win.
It was a shift from the 4-3-3 formation they had largely used in the opening two months of the campaign and Lampard is pleased to have that option.
“What I want us to be is adaptable and there are reasons I felt in Lille it was the right system to start with,” he said.
“There were reasons within the game why I thought we should go back to a four, so I think that’s hopefully going to be a strength of ours.
“I don’t want to change for change sake. I want us to have our way, but our way doesn’t mean 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 3-4-3. It can be adapting as a strength of ours hopefully, so that was just a choice I made in terms of that game itself, and obviously it may happen again.”
When it comes to Southampton, Lampard admitted it is difficult to predict how Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl will line up.
Lampard added: “It will be a tough match against a team with a very good manager. They are a very well organised team who play in different formations so it is hard to predict how they might come at you.
“But they come at you with a lot of pace with how they come at you off the ball. They have quality players. It is always a difficult place to go, especially when you are not at it, you have to be in tip-top shape to go there.
“There’s a lot of energy in their team and the crowd can get behind them if they play with that kind of intensity which they have. We need to match it, at least, because we want to keep our momentum going.”
Chelsea have earned plenty of plaudits lately, winning their last three games with Lampard up for Premier League Manager of the Month for September.
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Pep Guardiola does not believe Manchester City’s opponents are beaten before they arrive at the Etihad Stadium.
The champions have won 39 of their last 44 Premier League matches at home – a record they will hope to improve when they host Wolves on Sunday.
Such a statistic could intimidate visitors, but Guardiola claims that is not the case and that his side’s good results are down to their own hard work.
The City boss said: “My feeling is no (there is no intimidation factor).
“I cannot imagine when teams before the game are not thinking, ‘We can do it’.
“I know the managers and how competitive all of them are, how they’ll try to seduce the players and say, ‘We can do it’. They’ll be thinking, ‘We can go and do a good game’.
“Sometimes we don’t win but when we do it is because we do something good.
“We have to try it against a team we know quite well. We have played many times against Nuno Espirito Santo’s team in Carabao Cups and leagues and other stuff.”
Guardiola is proud of his side’s home record and feels that has underpinned their title successes of the past two seasons.
He said: “In some moments you need luck to win games, to make a lot of points, win titles.
“But we have effort and very good things, so I’m proud of the the effort and the way we have done it.
“Our first season (at City) was not consistent. We had problems. I didn’t expect it when I landed here. I thought at home we would be strong and away tough but it was completely the opposite in the first season.
“But since then, the second season and third season and this season as well, we have been strong at home. To try to win titles you have to be strong at home or you have no chance.”
Fernandinho is set to continue in central defence for City alongside Nicolas Otamendi, with John Stones and Aymeric Laporte still out injured.
It will be the 34-year-old Brazil midfielder’s third game in just over a week, but Guardiola is confident he can handle it.
He said: “He didn’t have many minutes in his legs before these three games. Except the last part of last season – in the previous seasons – he’s played every three days over 11 months. So I think he can do it.”