Guardiola urges depleted squad to focus on securing top spot

Pep Guardiola is taking nothing for granted as Manchester City prepare to round off their campaign in Champions League Group F against already-eliminated Hoffenheim.

Guardiola revealed his squad is down to 15 fit senior players for the game, from which City need a point against their winless opponents in order to qualify in top spot.

David Silva and Fernandinho are the latest additions to an injury list that includes Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Danilo, Benjamin Mendy and Claudio Bravo. Oleksandar Zinchenko has also been out in recent weeks.

The news has continued a testing week for Guardiola on the back of the weekend’s defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Guardiola said: “We have 15 players available so I cannot do too much.

“We are going into a really tough game. We are in the next stage and that’s important but we want to go through finishing first. Every game we try to win.

“If you finish first or second the last 16 is tough but to play at home (in the second leg) is a small advantage.”

Silva was substituted at Stamford Bridge with a hamstring injury and faces “a few weeks” out but Aguero, who has missed three games with a groin problem, could return to face Everton on Saturday.

Guardiola, speaking at a pre-match press conference dominated by questions about the alleged racial abuse experienced by Raheem Sterling, did not confirm the nature of midfielder Fernandinho’s injury.

Guardiola expects his players to learn lessons from their reverse at Chelsea, which saw Liverpool supplant the champions at the summit.

He said: “The day after we trained, a bit more sad than normal, but that’s normal when we lose.

“But unusual is not to lose a game – what’s unusual is what we have done in the last 15 or 16 months. That’s not normal, the amount of games we won and the few games we lost.

“But I have no argument with the way we lost. I don’t have anything negative to say to my players.

“Against good teams that can happen. If you make mistakes against good teams, Champions League teams, Chelsea, always you concede. It’s part of the process and we have to learn.”

Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim will be making only their second visit to England after their 4-2 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in August last year.

Striker Andrej Kramaric believes Hoffenheim can pull off a “miracle” Champions League win at Manchester City.

After collecting just three points in Group F, Hoffenheim cannot progress to the last 16 but victory, combined with a Shakhtar Donetsk loss to Lyon, would net them a Europa League consolation spot.

Croatia striker Kramaric, who has scored in his last eight games for club and country, said: “We are still hoping. This would not be the first time we have seen miracles in football. We believe in ourselves.

“We are playing against one of the best teams in the world with some of the best players in the world but everything is possible.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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