City 'still on right track'

Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson will be looking to bounce back swiftly from last week's defeat at Liverpool, the leaders' only English Premier League loss all season.
Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson will be looking to bounce back swiftly from last week's defeat at Liverpool, the leaders' only English Premier League loss all season.PHOTO: REUTERS

Centre-back Otamendi focused on showing powers of recovery against Newcastle

LONDON • Nicolas Otamendi has warned Manchester City's rivals that the Premier League leaders will not let their loss at Liverpool derail their title charge even though Pep Guardiola admits they "have a problem" at left-back.

City saw their unbeaten start to the league season come to an end as Liverpool's 4-3 victory inflicted City's first top-flight loss in 30 matches dating back to April.

Otamendi was part of City's defensive meltdown as they failed to cope with Liverpool's pace and movement. But the Argentinian centre-back is confident City, who hold a 12-point lead over second-placed Manchester United, will get back on track when Newcastle visit the Eastlands today.

"The season is going really well and we want to keep going in that way," said the 29-year-old, who on Wednesday signed a deal that runs until 2022, with team-mate Fernandinho yesterday inking a two-year extension to stay until 2020.

"We are very focused on every single game, and afterwards we try to recover in the best way we can and be focused for the next.

"I think that now I have an important role because the central defenders have to build up with the ball and make the team work."

Otamendi has been a key player for City this season, to the extent that Guardiola has described him as "Superman". His steadying influence is likely to prove crucial as defensive partner John Stones and goalkeeper Ederson attempt to respond positively after errors that led to Liverpool goals last week.

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Makeshift left-back Fabian Delph was also injured at Anfield and, with long-term absentee Benjamin Mendy out, Brazilian full-back Danilo is likely to fill that void.

"Right now we have a problem," City manager Guardiola told a press conference yesterday.

"We started the season with just one left-back because we spent so much money (over £220 million - S$403 million - in the summer transfer window).

"We knew that and now we have the problem with Fabian Delph. The problem is not just for one or two games - it will be longer. In these situations, it depends on the mentality of the players."

Newcastle have won their past two away league games to leave them three points above the relegation zone as they bid to avoid relegation amid a takeover cloud.

But they have failed to beat City in 20 Premier League meetings and manager Rafael Benitez came in for criticism for his ultra-defensive tactics as Guardiola's side won 1-0 at St James' Park last month.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2018, with the headline 'City 'still on right track''. Print Edition | Subscribe