No room for sentiment between mates

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has no intention of resting players against Everton despite a trip to Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has no intention of resting players against Everton despite a trip to Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Former Barcelona team-mates Pep Guardiola and Ronald Koeman will be reunited at Eastlands today as Manchester City and Everton square up for the first time in the Premier League this season.

Both have now established themselves as top-class managers but the Spaniard has not forgotten the influence former room-mate Koeman had on his early career.

"When Ronald needed water, he'd wake up to (get) water from me," said Guardiola yesterday. "I was younger so I looked up to him.

"He was not just a room-mate, we spent a lot of time together and he was so generous. Not just on the pitch but off, I learnt a lot from looking at him."

Koeman was a stylish centre-half, a vital component in the way then Barca coach Johan Cruyff - a huge influence in Guardiola's career - set up his side.

Guardiola said: "He was one of the first central defenders with the quality not just to defend. Cruyff bought him to teach us why we needed a central defender like Ronald. He was one of the few guys who I never saw miss an important game. He always played good in the big games."

When Everton visit leaders City, Guardiola will face his first real challenge since arriving from Bayern Munich in the close-season.

After opening the season with 10 consecutive victories in all competitions, City have drawn at Celtic in the Champions League and lost for the first time under Guardiola, 2-0 at Tottenham Hotspur in their last outing.

City midfielder Fernando insists his side must recover quickly from their own first taste of defeat.

"We need to learn from that defeat and return to winning ways again so it's vital we get back to playing the way we have been," he said.

"We need to start much better than we did at White Hart Lane and we're all keen to put that game behind us because we were a long way from our best.

"It's always a difficult game against Everton but our goal is always the same - to try and win the game and play good football.

"They've started well and have looked really good. They are just four points behind us, which is an indication of how good a job Ronald Koeman has done."

Guardiola has no intention of resting players today ahead of an emotional return to Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday.

"Tomorrow is the most important game," he said. "I'm not thinking about the game after. The best approach is to win on Saturday."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2016, with the headline 'No room for sentiment between mates'. Print Edition | Subscribe