SHEFFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM (AFP) – Pep Guardiola admitted Aymeric Laporte’s return from injury will be key to Manchester City’s hopes of a successful end to the season after Sergio Aguero sealed a 1-0 win against Sheffield United early yesterday.
Guardiola’s side were labouring to break down United until Aguero came off the bench to end their stubborn resistence at Bramall Lane.
City striker Gabriel Jesus had a penalty saved by Dean Henderson in the first half but with 17 minutes left Aguero bagged his seventh goal in four appearances in 2020.
His 21st goal of the season in all competitions moved second-placed City to within 13 points of runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool, who have two games in hand on the champions.
While City’s hopes of winning a third successive title have been shattered by a combination of their own failings and Liverpool’s incredible form, there is still much to play for this term.
Guardiola harbours dreams of leading City to their first Champions League crown and they also face an FA Cup date with Fulham this weekend, followed by the League Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester United.
With those cup ambitions in mind, Guardiola will have been encouraged by the way City coped with the Blades’ aggressive game-plan and emerged with a fourth win from their last five league matches.
“Sergio is on fire right now. Strikers need momentum. It’s good for us to have strikers in this form,” Guardiola said.
“I’m so happy with the team. I know what it’s like to play here, it is a tough place. We controlled it well and in the end we created chances to win.”
Keeping just their third clean sheet in 14 league games was another boost for Guardiola, who gave French defender Laporte his first appearance since August after recovering from a serious knee injury.