One look at Manchester City’s bench as they floored Leicester shows their squad is FRIGHTENING… Pep Guardiola’s squad depth could be the deciding factor this season
- Bernardo Silva scored the winner as Manchester City beat Leicester 1-0
- Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and John Stones were benched
- The 2021-22 season is set to be another that will stretch City players’ fitness
- Pep Guardiola’s huge squad depth could finally bring them a Champions League
The greatest fear for Manchester City’s rivals this season is not the players who started this victory, but those who did not.
In a season where the complications of Covid-19 and player fatigue will stretch clubs to the limit, those with the deepest, most talented squads are best placed to travel the furthest in the toughest competitions.
On Wednesday, Pep Guardiola begins his latest quest to deliver a first Champions League title for City when they face RB Leipzig. Across Europe, those who hope to deny them will have looked at their bench at the King Power Stadium and shuddered.
Man City’s army of superstars are threatening to utilise their squad depth this season
Pep Guardiola is aiming for the Champions League this season and the depth could be crucial
Kevin De Bruyne has been the most creative player in the Premier League for most of the previous six seasons yet Guardiola could afford to spare him here as the Belgium star recovers from ankle trouble.
Phil Foden is another on his way back from injury and made the bench here. When the respected CIES Football Observatory published their estimated transfer valuations of Europe’s most prominent players last January, Foden was top of the list at £160million. Not bad for a reserve.
Two of England’s stars of Euro 2020, Raheem Sterling and John Stones, also have to wait their turn as do Riyad Mahrez, Fernandinho and Oleksandr Zinchenko. Imagine if City had managed to persuade Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy to sell them Harry Kane.
The beauty for City is that whereas most clubs across the continent will have to prioritise one competition over another, they do not. Guardiola has a strong enough group to attack both the Premier League and Champions League and still have enough in the tank to challenge for the domestic cups.
Phil Foden is coming back from injury and City can afford to take their time with his recovery
Such is life for a member of the super-rich, and this is why it is difficult to see this season’s Champions League winners coming from outside City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.
‘We have a deep squad,’ said Guardiola. ‘Kevin was there, Phil was there, Riyad was there, John was there. In the last two games, against Norwich and Arsenal (both 5-0 wins), the guys who played were amazing and deserved to keep their places. The guys who didn’t play have to be ready.
‘This is the only reason we had success in previous seasons. Everyone made contributions and the guys who played well have more chances to play in the next one. The guys who don’t play well have more problems. Now the guys (not in the starting XI) have to wait for their moment and when it comes to show their quality.’
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers is one of the many managers who can only dream of having Guardiola’s resources. The Foxes’ squad is as powerful as it has been for many seasons yet City are simply in a different league.
Leicester competed well but City created a number of chances and won it when Bernardo Silva finally took one just after the hour mark.
Rodgers is expected to make changes for Thursday’s Europa League tie with Napoli, who have won their opening three Serie A matches, including a 2-1 victory over Juventus on Saturday night.
Raheem Sterling came off the bench as Manchester City flexed their muscle against the Foxes
Leicester will still name a strong team, however, as Rodgers is determined to establish the club in the European game and is keen to perform better than last season when they were knocked out by Slavia Prague in the last 32.
‘City have an incredible squad but I am proud that we can fight against them and that we are a dangerous team for the top sides,’ said Rodgers. ‘Over the course of the season we will need our squad and when players get game time, they have to take their chances.’
Meanwhile, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has appealed to the UK Government to intervene to allow Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina and Nigeria forward Victor Osimhen to feature at Leicester. Under current rules, the pair would have to serve 10 days’ quarantine in the United Kingdom as they played in red-list countries during the latest international break.
‘I am looking forward to going to Leicester but now the problem to resolve is to have (Prime Minister) Boris Johnson allow us in, because to play without Ospina and Osimhen would be ridiculous,’ said De Laurentiis.
‘I have spoken to UEFA who have reassured me that my message has been passed to the UK Government. Unfortunately we are fighting both Covid and the national football associations of various countries.’