Jesus back in contention, lifts Guardiola's mood

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will finish the season without silverware for the first time as a coach if his side lose to Arsenal today.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will finish the season without silverware for the first time as a coach if his side lose to Arsenal today.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Pep Guardiola has been boosted by the timely return to training of Gabriel Jesus, who could feature for Manchester City against Arsenal in their FA Cup semi-final today, but, should his side lose, the Spaniard will finish the season without silverware for the first time in his coaching career.

His team are out of the Champions League and were knocked out by Manchester United in the fourth round of the League Cup. In the league they are 11 points behind leaders Chelsea with six matches remaining.

This is uncommon ground for Guardiola, who has never reached the final month of a campaign without being in serious contention for more than one trophy.

The return of Jesus has brightened him. "He's really, much, much better," the Spaniard said of the forward, who scored three goals in four starts before breaking a metatarsal in February.

"We are so happy he's back again. He will travel to Wembley with the rest of the group, we will watch the (other semi-final) between Tottenham and Chelsea and after dinner I will decide the team."

When asked if he could rule out the possibility of Jesus making a surprise start, Guardiola said: "No."

SELF-ASSESSMENT

My future is Sunday... What I expect when you go into a semi-final is to go to the final.

ARSENE WENGER, placing today's FA Cup semi-final result in overall perspective.

Jesus, who turned 20 at the start of the month, has played just 293 minutes for City, but Guardiola rates him so highly that he will build his second season around the Brazilian forward; one that he hopes is far more successful in terms of trophies than the first.

"With Sergio (Aguero) and the other ones he will hopefully help us score goals until the end of the season," said the City manager.

The Spaniard would gladly use FA Cup success as a way to accentuate the positives while he plans a summer overhaul of his squad.

City took four points from their two meetings with Arsenal in the league this season and Germany winger Leroy Sane, who scored in both games, hopes to torment the Gunners again.

"Can I score again? I hope so," he said. "I'm really looking forward to playing at Wembley.

"We just want to win this game because we want to reach the final and then win the competition. We are all motivated and ready." .

City's England defender John Stones is out of the semi-final, although he is expected to recover from a muscular injury in time for Thursday's Manchester derby against United.

Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal's FA Cup fate will not define his future, but the beleaguered manager desperately needs a victory today to keep his growing army of critics at bay.

The Frenchman has been under siege like never before in his 21-year reign.

"My future is Sunday. The FA Cup is a very important game for me because it's an opportunity to win a trophy this season," he said. "What I expect when you go into a semi-final is to go to the final.

"We are maybe not at the maximum of our confidence because we had recently some disappointing results. But that is a good opportunity to show we are ready for a fight and how much we want to go to the final. It's maybe our only opportunity to get a trophy this season."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 23, 2017, with the headline 'Jesus back in contention, lifts Guardiola's mood'. Print Edition | Subscribe