Saturday 14 December 2019

Guardiola puts faith in Jesus to fill in for leading man Aguero

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero leaves the pitch after appearing to pick up an injury during their clash with Chelsea at the weekend. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero leaves the pitch after appearing to pick up an injury during their clash with Chelsea at the weekend. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

James Ducker

For two South American rivals competing for one high-profile position at Manchester City, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are surprisingly close.

Long after the rest of their City team-mates had filed out of the Etihad Stadium after the 2-1 win over Chelsea on Saturday, the pair were still in the dressing-room watching the Copa Libertadores final.

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A dramatic game between Flamengo and River Plate consumed much of their attention, but Aguero (right) knew then that he was set for a spell on the sidelines after a thigh injury forced his substitution late on against Chelsea and Jesus will have been left under no illusions that the opportunity he has been waiting patiently for this season had arrived.

The loss of his leading centre-forward for around three weeks is another major injury setback for Pep Guardiola at a time when the City manager is already without his best defender, Aymeric Laporte, and winger Leroy Sane, but Jesus is determined to ensure Aguero's absence is not as costly as some fear.

The Brazil striker will certainly not be short of big games in which to make an impression, starting against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League tonight when a point will guarantee qualification for the knockout stage, and continuing with the Manchester derby on December 7.

Guardiola has ruled Aguero out of that game against Manchester United and the Argentina forward is also a doubt for the trip to Arsenal a week later, so the onus on Jesus is considerable.

Not that he is fazed by it. This is the chance he has been craving.

"I am not happy because Sergio is injured - I don't like it when my friends are injured - but I am ready to play," Jesus said. "It is not easy (being on the bench) because I am a guy who wants to play, wants to work and improve my football, so sometimes I am not happy.

"But when I decided to come to City, I knew it was going to be hard because Sergio is the top scorer in the club's history and he scores every game, but I have learned a lot from him. I think I have to do it (perform) all the time because I'm at a big club, with big players and a big manager."

Aguero has 13 goals in 16 appearances this season, and the best goals-per-minute ratio of any player in Premier League history, but Jesus has proven no slouch in that department - he is sixth on the list - and Guardiola is convinced the 22-year-old will prove an able stand-in for striking royalty.

"Normally, when one player achieves what he has in his career at City, your head can be turned and you think you are something you are not, but Sergio is completely the opposite. He's the humblest guy I've ever met.

"So to cope with that is not easy for Gabriel.

"Of course we are going to miss Sergio, because we need him, and unfortunately we've had a lot of injury problems this season, but I have no doubts (about Jesus).

"He'll play well in the next weeks when Sergio is not available." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, live, BT Sport 3, 8.0

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