Manchester City will be without Rúben Dias, Kyle Walker and John Stones as they seek to retain the title in the final three matches of the season. Pep Guardiola confirmed the defenders’ long‑term absences after the 5-0 rout of Newcastle on Sunday, with the City manager also claiming “people want Liverpool to win more than us” – the title rivals are now three points behind the champions with an inferior goal difference of four.
While Stones and Walker were not in the matchday squad, Dias suffered a hamstring problem during the first half at the Etihad Stadium and had to be replaced at the break by Fernandinho. With Nathan Aké nursing an ankle injury that also makes him a serious doubt for the trip to Wolves on Wednesday, Guardiola may be without four frontline defenders for the trip to the Midlands.
“Rúben, Kyle and John are out for the season,” Guardiola said. “In pre-season is the next time [we will see them]. We have 13.5 players because Nathan is not in perfect condition.”
The 37-year-old Fernandinho will have a vital role in the championship run-in. “A lot [of importance],” Guardiola said. “Otherwise, it’s [the youngsters] CJ Egan-Riley or Luke Mbete[-Tabu]. In this situation it’s not a problem, Rodri can play there. We have the academy. Everyone has to do extra. We have problems and that’s all.”
Of the chase between City and Liverpool, Guardiola said: “The people want Liverpool to win more than us – it’s not an issue. It’s normal. Maybe they have more supporters all around the world and in England maybe more support Liverpool than us. Liverpool, alongside [Manchester] United, are the most famous team, with what they have done in history – in terms of titles, legacy, history, dramas, for many, many things. But we are, for the last 10, 11, 12 years, coming there [too]. I know we are sometimes uncomfortable [for people who don’t want us to], but I don’t care.”
Two goals from Raheem Sterling plus one each from Aymeric Laporte, Rodri and Phil Foden pulled City further clear of Liverpool following their 1-1 draw with Tottenham on Saturday. Each team has three games remaining.
“What happened with Liverpool and today makes Wednesday an absolute final, final for us,” Guardiola said. “If we can win then maybe we come here on the final day against Aston Villa with our people looking to do back-to-back titles.”
The win also represented the perfect response to the elimination from the Champions League semi-finals at the hands of Real Madrid last Wednesday. “It was a perfect afternoon,” Guardiola said. “With what this team has done, do you have any doubt?”