Claudio Bravo’s debut, Sergio Aguero’s absence and more: Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho on the Manchester derby
MANCHESTER // Claudio Bravo will be parachuted into the Manchester derby as Pep Guardiola said he is confident the goalkeeper is prepared to make his debut at Old Trafford on Saturday.
The Chilean, who was signed from Barcelona as Joe Hart was loaned out to Torino, will make his Manchester City bow in the most pressurised of environments.
And Guardiola believes the Primera Liga winner can cope.
“He is fit, he is ready. He had a little bit of a problem in his leg but he trained,” Guardiola said. “He’s 33 years old — he has experience. No problem with that. He has to save the goals.”
Bravo is set to replace Willy Caballero against Manchester United as Guardiola dropped a hint that another one of his summer signings, Leroy Sane, will also make a belated first appearance.
The Germany international, 20, has been sidelined by a hamstring problem but is available again.
“Sane, in terms of his condition, is the best player in this moment,” Guardiola said.
More from the Manchester derby:
• Diego Forlan column: An insight into the Manchester derby
• Predictions: How big a miss is Aguero for Manchester City?
• The Big Weekend Preview: Manchester derby takes centre stage
However, while Ilkay Gundogan has recovered from a knee problem and captain Vincent Kompany is back in training, Guardiola is wary of using either. “We don’t want to take too much risk,” he said.
His United counterpart, who has no injury concerns of his own, is also concentrating on the make-up of the City side.
Jose Mourinho has said Sergio Aguero’s absence makes it harder to second guess Guardiola’s team selection as he tries to work out who will lead the line for City in the absence of the suspended striker.
“It feels like a bit of a contradiction but without Aguero it’s more difficult,” he said. “When Aguero is available, we know Aguero plays.
“It is one thing if he decides to play with [Kelechi] Iheanacho, another thing if he decides to play with [Raheem] Sterling, another one is if he decides to play with [David] Silva as a fake No 9 between the lines.”
United’s attack will be spearheaded by Zlatan Ibrahimovic a striker who has played for both managers and who is a devotee of Mourinho and a critic of Guardiola.
The Portuguese praised the Swedish striker for spurning easier offers to try to prove himself in England at the end of his career.
“It’s about himself,” he said. “He is a phenomenal player. He didn’t want the Chinese money or the American dollars. “He wanted the most difficult place to play football and the most difficult place to win titles.”
Guardiola bought, dropped and sold Ibrahimovic, 34, when he was Barcelona manager but said he was unsurprised the Swede, who has scored four goals in his first four games for United, has made such a swift start.
“He is one of the best players and the best players have an impact,” he said. “The big players don’t have to understand the league or need time.”
Guardiola eulogised about Mourinho’s attacking options as he admitted it will be tough for City to stop United.
“They have a lot of talent up front,” he said. “[Juan] Mata between the lines is so dangerous, the full-backs go so offensive and [Wayne] Rooney and Ibrahimovic have quality. [Anthony] Martial is so fast and the set pieces with tall guys is impossible to control so they are a top team.”
Mourinho and Guardiola had a fierce and at times bitter relationship in Spain when the Portuguese was in charge of Real Madrid.
Each, however, was keen to deflect attention from the subplot of their reunion.
“That’s no problem,” said Mourinho, while Guardiola added: “The rivalry is more [generated by the] media. I have a lot of respect for him.
“The last meeting between Madrid and Barcelona was not easy for both us but we met each other two or three weeks ago with the Premier League managers and we spoke fluently with Ronald Koeman, with Tony Pulis so it was correct.”
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Published: September 9, 2016 04:00 AM