No Silva lining for Guardiola

The rival managers' body language says it all during Arsenal's 2-1 victory against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final last Sunday. While several Gunners said the win showed their faith in the Frenchman, a disappointed Guardiola must regroup for
The rival managers' body language says it all during Arsenal's 2-1 victory against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final last Sunday. While several Gunners said the win showed their faith in the Frenchman, a disappointed Guardiola must regroup for the derby on Thursday.PHOTOS: REUTERS, EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
The rival managers' body language says it all during Arsenal's 2-1 victory against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final last Sunday. While several Gunners said the win showed their faith in the Frenchman, a disappointed Guardiola must regroup for
The rival managers' body language says it all during Arsenal's 2-1 victory against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final last Sunday. While several Gunners said the win showed their faith in the Frenchman, a disappointed Guardiola must regroup for the derby on Thursday.PHOTOS: REUTERS, EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Question mark over Spaniard and Aguero as City boss weighs up prospects against United

LONDON • Pep Guardiola's disappointment at his team's 2-1 defeat by Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals on Sunday was compounded by the news that Sergio Aguero and David Silva may now miss the derby against Manchester United on Thursday through injury.

Playmaker Silva hobbled off in the 23rd minute after taking a knee in his hamstring from defender Gabriel. Striker Aguero limped off in extra time with a dead leg.

Aguero has been playing some of the best football of his career and his second-half strike at Wembley was his 30th goal this season.

Given that United are now just one point behind their neighbours in the hunt for Champions League qualification, Guardiola will need his strongest XI available on Thursday when Jose Mourinho's men come to the Etihad Stadium, but the Catalan cannot be sure whether either of his star players will be fit.

"I don't know," the City manager said when asked about their prospects for the derby. "I didn't speak to the doctors. We will see (today) how they are."

City may have to start Kelechi Iheanacho up front on Thursday as Gabriel Jesus is still lacking fitness after 10 weeks out with a broken toe. The Brazilian travelled to London with the squad for Sunday's game but he is still not match fit.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Next season we will be stronger. We will improve. Always I have done that in my life and I will do so in the rest of my life.

PEP GUARDIOLA, City manager, on the prospect of finishing his first English Premier League season without a trophy.

"He has had one training session," Guardiola said of the 20-year-old Jesus, who scored three goals in his first four starts before getting injured in the win away to Bournemouth.

"I don't know (if Jesus can play on Thursday). We are going to see in the next days how to prepare for United."

Given that City trail Chelsea, the Premier League leaders, by 11 points with just six matches left, Guardiola is now almost certain to end the season without a trophy for the first time in his career.

The former Barcelona coach is hopeful that this will be a one-off.

"Next season we will be stronger," he said. "We will improve. Always I have done that in my life and I will do so in the rest of my life.

"The team does not need to do a lot of things, we have some problems with scoring but we played like we wanted and that's all. Today we are sad but tomorrow we have to stand up and finish the games we have still to play."

Guardiola was visibly annoyed on the touchline when Craig Pawson did not book Gabriel for clattering into Silva from behind, but the City manager refused to criticise the referee after the game.

"It doesn't matter, I don't want to talk about that. Congratulations to Arsenal," he said.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger praised his players for banishing doubts about their mental strength by coming from behind to beat City and set up an FA Cup final at Wembley with Chelsea on May 27.

After Aguero fired City into the lead midway through the second half, Nacho Monreal equalised to take the match to extra time. Alexis Sanchez then scored in the 101st minute to preserve Arsenal's hopes of ending the season with a trophy.

Wenger said: "It was a big test for us, it was a mental test. Many people questioned that - can we turn up on an occasion like that? I am very proud for the players. They showed a united, determined and playful response.

Several of Arsenal's players said afterwards that they had been motivated, in particular, by a desire to show their faith in Wenger, who in recent months has been the subject of a sustained campaign by a large section of fans who want him to be replaced as manager of the club he has led for nearly 21 years.

Despite his happiness, Wenger would not say whether he will still be in charge next season.

"I feel the club is in a very strong shape," he said. "We have a very strong overall situation and a very strong team. We have shown that. That for me is the most important.

"One day I will leave anyway so the most important is that Arsenal will always be a great club that everyone admires."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'No Silva lining for Guardiola'. Print Edition | Subscribe