Pep Guardiola has warned Sergio Aguero he will be “cold” when choosing his team for the Champions League final, but does not think the striker has played his last game for Manchester City yet.
Aguero, the club’s all-time record goalscorer, is the only known absentee for Tuesday’s trip to Brighton. An adductor problem is the latest ailment for the 32-year-old in an injury-ravaged final season at City. He has been limited to just 18 appearances this term.
Guardiola remains optimistic Aguero could return in time for Sunday’s Premier League finale against Everton. But forcing his way into the reckoning for the Champions League showdown with Chelsea on May 29 could be another matter.
“I would say I would be cold,” Guardiola said of his attitude towards selection. “I have to take a decision which is the best to win that game, so I have to be.
“If Sergio is fit he is going to help us, that is for sure. If he is going to help us score goals he is going to play. But it’s the final of the Champions League. I have to take the decision that gives us the best chance of winning that game.”
The City boss gave a number of fringe players a chance in Friday’s 4-3 win at Newcastle. Ferran Torres scored his first Premier League hat-trick while a defensive partnership of Nathan Ake and Eric Garcia started in front of 35-year-old debutant Scott Carson in goal.
Guardiola suggested it would be a more “focused” City side that goes to Brighton on Tuesday night, with Kevin De Bruyne due to travel as he nears a return from a muscle problem.
Guardiola expects grumpy players
With places up for grabs, Guardiola admitted he can tell the difference around the club’s training facility as his players try to curry favour.
“They listen a little bit more,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a serious point what you say: they’re not stupid. They want to play so they are nicer to me. Then I will make a selection and they will be who they are normally: grumpy, upset with me. That’s normal!
“I remember the starting XI at Barca was so clear. Here we rotate a lot and everyone can play. Still I’m not clear on the way we’re going to play and who we are going to play. That’s why I have to take a look over the next 10 days and then we’ll take a decision.
“Every three days it’s a tough job to guys who are good quality players and they train good and they don’t play. This is the toughest moment.
“That is why the relationship between the players and the manager has to have a little bit of distance because you cannot have this close a relationship because you have to take the decisions that take part in their careers. Sometimes I am unfair to them but it is what it is.
“That is why they are lucky to find a manager who rotates a lot, that in the last maybe one or two months every game I have changed six, seven, or eight players.
“I would say I have been generous with them but even with that, they don’t understand it. They want to play all the games every day.”