Sport Premier League

Thursday 26 April 2018

Guardiola pleads for player protection

City manager insists 'there are limits' as leaders lose De Bruyne and Jesus to injury

Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus reacts after injuring his knee during yesterday’s clash with Crystal Palace Photo: Getty
Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus reacts after injuring his knee during yesterday’s clash with Crystal Palace Photo: Getty

Jason Burt

Pep Guardiola made an impassioned plea for referees to "protect" players after Manchester City suffered injuries to Gabriel Jesus and Kevin de Bruyne, the latter scythed down in a horrendous late tackle by Jason Puncheon during the fierce goalless draw at Crystal Palace.

Jesus is out for up to two months, City fear, although Guardiola said he hoped the suspected medial ligament knee damage suffered by the striker might only rule him out for "a little bit more than one month".

Jesus left the pitch in tears. The Brazilian then left Selhurst Park on crutches.

The injury may force City to try to prise away Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez with the January transfer window opening.

Guardiola failed with a late summer bid for Sanchez, who has made it clear he wants to leave Arsenal - where he is in the final year of his contract - and move to City.

There has been an expectation that City may simply wait for Sanchez's contract to expire but they could now feel compelled to act.

However, Guardiola would not be drawn. "He's a player for Arsenal and I think he's staying there," he said. "In meetings, we will decide what's best [to do in January] but he's an Arsenal player.

"We have to sit down and see what happened with Gabriel and Kevin, and we will see."

Injuries are mounting for City, who lost captain Vincent Kompany during the win at Newcastle United last Wednesday.

The club already intended to sign a central defender - West Bromwich Albion's Jonny Evans and Real Sociedad's Inigo Martinez are their prime targets - during the window. Guardiola is also still without David Silva, who has been given compassionate leave.

"I don't know when he will be back, but the personal life is more important than any other situation," Guardiola said.

The Spaniard expressed his concern about the lack of protection offered by the match officials to players in Premier League matches.

"Gabriel will be out for a little bit more than one month. Kevin, we will see tomorrow," Guardiola said.

Jesus was hurt in a challenge by Andros Townsend, with the striker 'doing the splits' and twisting his knee. He tried to carry on but eventually had to leave the pitch in the 23rd minute.

The tackle on De Bruyne was more brutal as City tried to break following Luka Milivojevic's missed penalty for Palace. "I like the physicality of the Premier League but the referee has to protect the players," Guardiola said, adding that maybe there was too much focus on trying to stop diving and not enough on some of the tackles.

Asked whether he was concerned about the "best players" getting hurt, he added: "Not the best players. All the players. People focus on diving and this kind of thing. I know contact is more allowed here than any other country but there are limits."

Guardiola cited two recent matches - the home game against Tottenham Hotspur and away at Newcastle - as occasions where his players could have been hurt in challenges. "We were lucky against Tottenham with Raheem [Sterling] and Kevin, we were lucky against Newcastle with [Ilkay] Gundogan,"

Dangerous

"Maybe he [De Bruyne] will not be ready for the Watford game in two days' time, but protect all the players, that is all," Guardiola said.

"They don't have to change the way they play here. You go to another country, they play in a specific way. But there is one line which if you go above, beyond that line is dangerous.

"You are here and I am here for the players. There are 22 guys trying to win and the referee has to follow the rules and protect the players," he added.

Palace manager Roy Hodgson admitted his side had gained an unexpected point, which could have been all three had the penalty not been saved by City goalkeeper Ederson.

However, Palace also suffered injuries, with captain Scott Dann carried off in the first half - ironically, he sustained his injury fouling De Bruyne - as well as Puncheon late on. Hodgson added: "It was a very costly game because the type of injuries that were sustained today did not look like short-term injuries."

Palace are now without three key defenders. "[Mamadou] Sakho is likely to be out for a few more weeks, Joel Ward is still in recovery and we have now lost Scott Dann" Hodgson said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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