Claudio Bravo will make his first Premier League appearance in 18 months in the white heat of a title tussle with Liverpool, but Pep Guardiola has full faith in his replacement goalkeeper.
Regular number one Ederson has been ruled out of Sunday’s Anfield trip after coming off at half-time in the midweek draw in Atalanta, a game that ended with Kyle Walker donning the gloves after substitute Bravo was sent off for a rash challenge.
That was hardly the confidence-boosting cameo the former Barcelona man would have wanted, but he now faces the prospect of facing the table-topping Reds having last started a league game on the final day of the 2017/18 campaign.
There is no doubt Ederson’s absence represents a further blow to a City side who sit six points adrift of their rivals and have won at Anfield only once since 1981, but Guardiola did not miss a beat as he offered Bravo his complete confidence.
“He (Ederson) is not able to play. But we have another top keeper,” he said.
“We won the Carabao Cup (in 2018) thanks to Claudio, so he’s an exceptional keeper. He’s won a lot of games with his national team, Chile. So, no doubts.”
Pressed further on the 36-year-old’s involvement in such a big fixture, Guardiola adopted a terse tone as if baffled by the line of questioning.
“Why should I not be confident with my players on my team? Why would I have doubts because a player who plays regularly does not play?” he said.
“I would not want to be a player who was doubted by his manager. I’ve seen him in training and I know how fired and how good he is – we are not going to lose because of Claudio.
“He’s played at an incredible level, he won the Copa America, other cup. Respect that guy, he is an incredible, top, top keeper.”
Guardiola went on to mitigate Bravo’s worst moments at City – be it a troubled first season or his dismissal in Italy.
“The red card against Atalanta was because we lose the ball in a dangerous position,” he offered.
“In the first season when (he) was a little bit struggling with the Premier League, it was because the
team was not at top level. The problem was not Claudio.”
Guardiola has become well versed in managing enforced absences this season, with lingering doubts over David Silva and Rodri’s availability and the trio of Oleksandar Zinchenko, Leroy Sane and Aymeric
Laporte sidelined for extended periods.
He still has an enviable array of talent to call on as he looks to shift the momentum of the title race, wary that by Monday morning Liverpool could be nine points clear or have their advantage cut in half.
“I know what is going to happen if we lose, people will say it’s over, but there are a lot of games to play and experience in sport is that you have to fight until the end,” he said.
“What happens if we win? I think in November it never ends, that is my point. I’m sorry, I don’t know if it will be over. You have to imagine they are not going to lose too many games but the season is long, a lot of games and situations can happen.”
Regardless of the outcome, over 90 minutes and in the coming months, Guardiola appears enthused by the nature of the growing rivalry between the two clubs after lifting successive domestic titles.
“Liverpool is a real complete team. As a club we need this kind of rival after winning back to back,” he said.
“That’s the kind of rival to put another step forward, to understand, ‘Ok that is the level we have to face in the next years’, to work harder and take the right decisions.”
The level of football may be as high as ever, but even Guardiola accepted his and Klopp’s story lacked longevity compared to the Premier League’s longest-running managerial saga.
“I don’t think we can compare anyone with the rivalry of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, because they are absolute legends at their own clubs and for more than one decade, two decades there,” he said.
“I will wait to see if my hair grows in the next 20 years, because they were more than 20 years together.”