Belfast Telegraph

'Unstoppable' Mendy can give City something extra in title race: Guardiola

 

Staying strong: Pep Guardiola will play some big names
Staying strong: Pep Guardiola will play some big names

By Andy Hampson

Pep Guardiola is looking forward to welcoming Benjamin Mendy back for the business end of Manchester City's season.

The France left-back could be on the bench for the second leg of City's Carabao Cup semi-final at League One Burton tonight.

Mendy, who missed most of last season after knee surgery, has been out since undergoing another operation in November.

The 24-year-old returned to training last week and will travel with the squad to the Pirelli Stadium, where City will begin with a 9-0 aggregate lead.

Asked how much he had missed the player, City boss Guardiola said: "With the results in the last two years, I would say not too much - but I miss him a lot. I have a feeling he can give us (something) extra, and hopefully in the last part of the season, and in the future, the club can use him.

"(When) he pushes from outside he is unstoppable. In the last third he's so clever - it's not (just) cross to cross, it's clever when he does these actions.

"But in two seasons, he's played very few games. All the talk, training, practice - he's not there. We need time to adjust to what we need with his quality."

Progress to next month's final should be a formality for the holders but Guardiola still intends to play some senior players, including Kevin de Bruyne.

The proximity of the game to the Checkatrade Trophy quarter-final, in which City's Under-21 team are involved on Tuesday night, ruled out the possibility of fielding a side full of development players.

Asked how many youngsters might play, Guardiola said: "We are going to play Phil (Foden) and some will be on the bench. Two, three or four will play and two or three on the bench."

Asked about De Bruyne, who is still trying to build up his match fitness after injury, Guardiola said: "He is going to play.

"Some players need rhythm so they are going to play - the first-team guys who have not got a lot of games in their legs."

Goalkeeper Aro Muric is another player who Guardiola said has "a chance to show us how good he is".

The tie may already be over as a contest but Guardiola will not tolerate any sloppiness.

He said: "We start the game 9-0 up. That's an unusual situation, but the approach is to improve every single game.

"The last game (was) not perfect in understanding the way to attack. It was difficult for many reasons. It depends on the way we defend, how we attack more fluently. That's what I want to see."

Nigel Clough, meanwhile, does not feel the scale of Burton's achievement is fully appreciated.

This is not the first time a League One club managed by Clough has appeared in the last four. Sheffield United were narrowly beaten 3-2 on aggregate by Tottenham in 2015, but Burton have neither the tradition nor finances of the Blades.

This is new territory for Albion, a club who have only been in existence since 1950 and who have only been playing in the Football League since 2009.

Burton knocked out Aston Villa, Burnley, Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough to reach the semi-finals.

Tonight is a dead rubber, but Clough said: "It'll probably never happen again. It's amazing, and the fact that the semi-finals are over two legs emphasises that.

"I think what will strike City more than anything is when they come here and take a look around our little ground and see the size of club we are.

"They will ask themselves how a club of our size has made it to the last four. Then I think they might be able to comprehend the scale of our achievement."

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