Pep Guardiola has sarcastically defended his decision not to make use of any substitutions in Manchester City’s 1-1 stalemate away to Bundesliga high-flyers RB Leipzig in the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday night.
The defending Premier League champions produced a dominant first-half showing in Germany and deservedly went ahead via a Riyad Mahrez strike.
However, they were held back in the second period thanks to a powerful header from central defender Josko Gvardiol as the hosts’ looked a far more dangerous outfit after the interval, and threatened the visitors’ box.
Following the leveller, City reclaimed control of the game, and would rightly feel they were hard done by as they should have been awarded a late penalty for a handball from Benjamin Henrichs, however, former referee Peter Walton has claimed the incident was not even reviewed by VAR.
There was another surprising revelation, though. Despite City pressing for a last-ditch winner ahead of the return leg to the Etihad, Guardiola did not make a single change during the match, despite having the likes of Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden on the bench. And the Spanish tactician has defended his decision to continue with the XI already on the field.
“I have the opportunity as a rule to make five substitutions. But I am the manager and I apply it and I take it if I want,” City manager Guardiola said in his post-match press conference, as relayed by Manchester Evening News.
“So that doesn’t mean that because I have five substitutions I have to do five substitutions. And I am a so good manager to decide what I have to do or not.”
He continued: “I was really pleased with what I was seeing. So I thought of course with Phil to have this talent to do this. But after the goal I thought immediately to put Phil, but immediately we took again the game in our hands and then with this control that we had.
“Because they play with six up front, we play with the two-two plus the full-backs plus the wingers, four players, incredible runners, and in that position and the way they play you have to have a lot of control.
“That’s why the players that we had, like Gundo, like Riyad, the extra passes they were doing are what we need, especially in the first leg. Maybe in the second leg I will decide to be crazy and play with nine strikers!
“But in this game I felt – I’ve been in this country, I’ve analysed as much as possible with my people – I needed this type of control because otherwise it becomes up-and-down and open.
“Of course it was open, there were one or two actions from Gundo to pass the ball to Erling that they blocked, but in these type of situations they are better. German teams they are better than us.”
The result means Man City will need a victory when Leipzig make the trip to the Etihad for the return leg on March 14, before which Guardiola’s side have to face Bournemouth, Bristol City, Newcastle and Crystal Palace.