Pep wants more from Aguero, game time for Iheanacho

LONDON • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has urged his striker Sergio Aguero to help the team maintain pressure on opponents and not "disappear" when he does not have the ball.

The Argentinian scored twice in City's 4-1 win against Stoke City on Saturday to take his season's tally to six goals in all competitions.

But, on the eve of City's Champions League play-off second leg against Steaua Bucharest today, Guardiola said Aguero must help his team-mates with his movements off the ball.

"It's not enough to receive the ball from his team-mates, he has to help us in the first pressure and run a lot and help us a lot with movement," the Spaniard told British media. "You cannot be brilliant when you disappear, when you (don't) have the ball. It's impossible."

He has fewer complaints about winger Raheem Sterling, who has been in fine fettle after a sub-standard last season.

Sterling set the tone for City in last week's first-leg 5-0 win in Bucharest, winning an early penalty (which Aguero squandered) and laying on goals for David Silva and Aguero, who scored a hat-trick.

Sterling also won a penalty as City beat Sunderland 2-1 in their Premier League season opener and impressed again in last Saturday's 4-1 win at Stoke City, unselfishly setting up a late goal for Nolito.

"Obviously he's been criticised a lot in the last year, but the way he's responding is great," said team-mate Kevin De Bruyne. "He's a great player. I don't care what people say about him after last year or the Euros. These things happen. Footballers have ups and downs."

Guardiola also praised striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who came off the bench and proved influential in City's third and fourth goals against Stoke.

"He (Iheanacho) is always ready," Guardiola added. "We will need him. Sergio can't play all season and Kelli is going to play.

"We can't achieve anything with just 11 or 12 players."

With the tie against Steaua effectively over, today's game at the Etihad Stadium gives Guardiola an opportunity to hone his tactical innovations, such as his use of full-backs in central midfield roles.

He may also hand playing time to some of his fringe players, but it remains to be seen whether outcast goalkeeper Joe Hart will be granted a first start of the campaign.

Hart's position became more complicated after Claudio Bravo arrived at City yesterday ahead of a £17million (S$30.24 million) transfer from Barcelona.

The 33-year-old goalkeeper is set to sign a three-year deal worth £100,000 a week. That means he will be installed as City's No. 1, ahead of Willy Caballero and Hart.

REUTERS

MAN CITY V STEAUA BUCHAREST

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'Pep wants more from Aguero, game time for Iheanacho'. Print Edition | Subscribe