Pep Guardiola has indicated that referees have to do more to protect players from injury, despite acknowledging that it could mean more red and yellow cards for his own players.
The Manchester City manager was furious about dangerous challenges on Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling during last Saturday’s 4-1 Premier League victory over Tottenham.
De Bruyne was fortunate to escape serious injury when Dele Alli caught him with a studs-up tackle, while Sterling was on the wrong end of a lunge by Harry Kane, with both Tottenham players receiving only yellow cards.
However, Guardiola also suggested that City defender Nicolas Otamendi was fortunate to get away with only a booking after catching Kane in the face with a high boot in the same match.
He compared that challenge to the one for which Liverpool striker Sadio Mane was sent off after catching goalkeeper Ederson at the Etihad Stadium in September.
“The main thing for the referees is to protect the players and follow the rules,” Guardiola said. “That is the most important thing. Always we are aggressive and sometimes we get injured.
“All the teams want to win and want to fight in the best way. Sometimes it happens. I have no doubts that Dele Ali and Harry Kane are top-team players. I am not suspicious about them, thinking they are dangerous players.
“But you have to protect them, the same as with Nicolas Otamendi and Harry Kane. It’s the same as what happened with Mane and Ederson. Mane doesn’t hate the goalkeeper; he didn’t want to do that. I’m pretty sure of that. The referees have to protect our players and the other players.”
Sterling and De Bruyne escaped unscathed and are set to be involved against Bournemouth today, as the leaders seek a 17th successive Premier League victory.
However, teenage midfielder Phil Foden will be out for at least a month after suffering ankle ligament damage in an accidental collision with an opponent during City’s Carabao Cup quarter-final victory at Leicester on Tuesday.
Club captain Vincent Kompany could be involved, having overcome the muscle injury suffered during their 2-1 victory at Manchester United 13 days ago, but Guardiola said he was unsure if David Silva would be available, having missed the win over Tottenham for personal reasons.
Guardiola, meanwhile, has declared that he will continue to wear a yellow ribbon in support of Catalonia pro-independence campaigners Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart until they are released from prison.
Sanchez and Cuixart were jailed in October after being accused of organising a protest that blocked Spanish police officers inside a Barcelona building.
The ruling came shortly after Catalonia voted for independence in a referendum that was declared illegal by the Spanish government.
Guardiola has been named in a Spanish police investigation into the independence row, which has been passed to the country’s Supreme Court.
But asked if he would keep wearing his ribbon, Guardiola said: “Yes. They are still in jail.”
He added that he would not spend time worrying about whether he will face action from the Spanish courts. “We will see what happens,” he said.
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