(Reuters) – Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says he will pick his strongest side to face Greek champions Olympiakos Piraeus in the Champions League on Tuesday, despite facing domestic rivals Liverpool in the Premier League five days later.
Illness and injuries to key first-team players means City are sitting 10th in the league standings with 11 points from six matches, representing Guardiola’s worst start to a season in his coaching career.
City, however, are in pole position to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages after winning their opening two group stage matches against Porto and Olympique de Marseille.
When asked if the Liverpool game would come into his selection thoughts, Guardiola said: “Absolutely not.
“You cannot make a false step in the Champions League because after that you struggle. We know to qualify you have to secure your games at home and win at least one away.
“After winning the first two games against Porto and Marseille now we have another chance tomorrow against Olympiakos to leave them behind. This is the target.”
Guardiola was unsure whether injured striker Sergio Aguero will recover in time for the home match against Liverpool on Sunday but said the Argentine striker should be in contention after the international break this month.
Aguero suffered a hamstring injury against West Ham United last month after starting three consecutive games following a lengthy absence with a knee problem.
“We don’t want him to have a setback but he’s getting better,” Guardiola said.
Gabriel Jesus is also recovering from a muscle injury and will undergo a fitness before Guardiola decides whether the Brazilian forward can feature against Olympiakos.
“He (Jesus) is better and did one session with the team,” Guardiola said. “We are happy he is back. But we are also happy with Ferran (Torres) playing there, too.”
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
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