Pep Guardiola claims he will relish the challenge of coping with adversity after an injury to John Stones added to Manchester City‘s defensive woes.
The Premier League champions have just one fit senior centre-back after England international Stones suffered a thigh injury in training ahead of City’s Champions League clash against Shakhtar Donetsk in Kharkiv on Wednesday.
Stones joins Aymeric Laporte, who is out until the new year, on the sidelines and, after the departure of Vincent Kompany last summer, City are now short of cover in the position.
Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho is now likely to be pressed into action as an emergency centre-half as City take on the Ukrainian champions in their Group C opener.
And with Stones potentially out for up to six weeks, this is a scenario City may have to get used to.
City boss Guardiola said: “It’s a big challenge. For me as a manager it is an incredible challenge.
“We’ve got just one central defender in Nico (Otamendi) – but I believe a lot in the something people don’t know, which is the spirit and commitment.
“We have to get 11 players out and on the pitch and make an extra effort. I like it, (the chance) to prove myself and show we are able to find a solution for the team, to make an incredible step forward and find a solution to this problem that we have.
“It’s not a problem, it is a challenge. They will do it, no problem. My players are the best.
“Football is not how you handle the good situations, it is how you handle the bad ones.”
Stones’ injury is a blow to City as they bid to keep pace with early Premier League pacesetters Liverpool and as they prepare to begin their Champions League campaign.
Midfielder Phil Foden has also not travelled to Ukraine due to a stomach virus.
City and Shakhtar are familiar opponents with this being the third consecutive year have been drawn together in the group stages.
Guardiola also knows Shakhtar well having faced them 11 times throughout a managerial career that has also included spells in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
“I have bought an apartment here,” Guardiola jokingly said at his pre-match press conference. “I came here many times and it’s always good. With Barcelona, Bayern and now City, I’ve come almost every season.”
Frank Lampard confirmed Ross Barkley was Chelsea‘s designated penalty-taker despite the on-field argument that preceded his crucial miss against Valencia.
The Blues, trailing 1-0 to a goal from Valencia winger Rodrigo, were given a lifeline in the closing stages when VAR flagged up a handball in the area.
Barkley, on as a substitute seven minutes earlier, assumed responsibility for the penalty but only after some heated debate with team-mates Jorginho and Willian.
The latter looked extremely unhappy to lose the argument, and even more so when Barkley’s effort clipped the crossbar.
The miss condemned Lampard to defeat on his Champions League debut as Chelsea boss.
Afterwards Lampard said: “Ross is the penalty taker. He took some in pre-season and he has been when he has started, and he was today when he came on.
“I don’t know what conversation was, but Jorginho and Willian were penalty-takers until Ross came on the pitch.”
Lampard, who played 102 Champions League matches for Chelsea and captained them to their 2012 triumph, admitted his young team were given a harsh lesson on life among Europe’s elite.
He fielded four Champions League debutants, and Willian and Tammy Abraham went close to breaking the deadlock numerous times before Rodrigo pounced from a set-piece with 16 minutes to go.
“We probably should have won, or at least got a draw,” added Lampard. “We created enough chances, we had the penalty, and we conceded with their one shot on goal.
“It’s a harsh lesson but that’s Champions League football. We should have got more tonight.”
To rub salt in the wounds Mason Mount had to go off in the opening 15 minutes after former Arsenal midfielder Frances Coquelin left his studs on the inside of the youngster’s shin.
Lampard does not yet know the extent of the injury but said: “It was a shame, he’s been playing well and he started this game well.”
The Spaniards were supposed to be there for the taking for Chelsea, having arrived in west London in turmoil following the sacking of popular manager Marcelino last week, a move which has angered the players as well as the fans.
But new boss Albert Celades had predicted they would not play like a team on the verge of mutiny, and he was proved right.
Celades said: “Obviously we are delighted. It’s very difficult to come here and get a win against a good side with great players.
“We did a good job. The players are happy. Let’s hope we can just speak about football from here on in.”
Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris says his club are still not built to win the Champions League, despite their run to the final last season.
Spurs got to the showpiece event in Madrid for the first time in their history and against all odds as Mauricio Pochettino led the club further in Europe than any other manager.
They ultimately fell just short against Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium and the challenge now is to prove that was not just a one-off as this season’s competition gets under way.
Lloris will lead his side out at Olympiacos in their Group B opener and said: “I think with a lot of humility there are some clubs that have the profile to win Champions League every season.
“Historically and with the talent they have in the squad. They put a stamp on this competition. That’s not the case for Tottenham.
“But as we saw last year, everything is possible if you have the belief, the talent and the discipline. Why not be back again?
“But obviously we have a different profile to that type of club – Juve, Barca, Madrid, Bayern. That type of club.
“It’s not a lack of ambition. When we go on the pitch, it’s to win, whoever is the opponent in front of us. We don’t want to look too far forward.
“Those type of things you can spend energy on and you can leave an accident.
“The best way is to focus on game one. Then game two. Then game three.
“Step-by-step to build your ambitions, as we did last season. The main thing is to go through this group stage.”
Spurs’ squad is still full of talent and the likes of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min and Jan Vertonghen are reaching the peak of their careers.
And Lloris is hoping they can all play their part to help Spurs get over the line and win a trophy.
“Now we’ve arrived at an age where we’ve got the experience to have an impact towards the team,” he added. “Hopefully we will go in the same way.
“I always used to repeat: when you arrive at a level, the important thing is to do everything to stay at the same level, especially the level we arrived at last year, as the runner-up of the Champions League, to be the fourth time in a row qualified for the Champions League.
“It’s not a coincidence. We’re doing something well, we’re building something strong.
“But we cannot drop the level. We need to build the consistency to improve, to get even closer to what we are all looking for – trophies.”
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, says his side are not among the Champions League favourites this season.
“No-one today will give us a chance to be one of the contenders to be in the final in Istanbul but that is normal,” he said. “That makes it very exciting.
“We know to repeat the same campaign we need to play in our best. It is so early to talk about the final but most important is to show our quality, our squad quality and do our best.
“I don’t care if people think if we are contenders or not because we went to the final and have a possibility to fight for this title.
“I don’t care. I am focused on starting this Champions League in a good way.”
That could be imperative as in a group that also contains Bayern Munich and Red Star Belgrade, they cannot repeat their horrible start to last season’s competition.
They had just one point after three games and needed an amazing set of results to make it through to the knockout stage.
They will be heavy favourites to win in Athens on Wednesday night and Pochettino has urged them to live up to their billing.
“We cannot talk in different way, a few months ago we played final of Champions League and (playing) Olympiacos will put us in this level of favourites for the game,” Pochettino said.
“I respect the opposition and the history and it is going to be tough here. You need to show why you are favourites.
“If you are better than opponents then OK, you were better but before the game in the Champions League you need to show full respect and Olympiacos are a very good team.
“Their record here in this stadium in Europe is so good and it’s going to be a tough atmosphere, the first game of group stage and excitement will be high.
“They will have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take the game in our best condition we are going to suffer.”