Guardiola admits he was joking about a ‘ridiculous’ plan for Manchester derby

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Pep Guardiola has admitted he was ‘joking’ when he said earlier this week that he had ‘ridiculous’ tactical plans in his head for Saturday’s derby against Manchester United.

Manchester City can go within two points of Premier League leaders Arsenal with victory at Old Trafford, where Guardiola has won six times in nine visits.

However, they come into the game off a shock Carabao Cup exit to Southampton where Guardiola’s side were out-of-sorts and well-beaten 2-0 on Wednesday.

And, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s clash, Guardiola was pressed in his pre-match press conference on his supposed tactical plans.

However, the Spaniard replied: ‘It was a joke’, pouring cold water on the idea that he could do something wacky with City’s set-up.

Earlier in the week, Guardiola had said: ‘I would like to arrive against United with the average of minutes in the legs of the players being quite similar because I have a few ideas, some thoughts, ridiculous ones against United.

‘But still I didn’t watch their last games. I have to see the way they play at home and if they change something. I still have to review it. That is why I don’t have a clear line-up against United.’

It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Guardiola line-up with an interesting set-up, with the City boss being well-known for mixing things up in big games.

The City boss operated with two midfielders as false nines during a dominant Carabao Cup win at United three years ago, which Kevin De Bruyne claimed to have taken the players only 15 minutes to perfect in training.

Similarly, Joao Cancelo started as a right winger during away games at Liverpool and Chelsea this season.

Guardiola also explained how he has a starting XI in his mind after the disappointing defeat to Southampton in midweek.

He said: ‘Yes. It’s not about [a missed opportunity at Southampton]. Selection is like a coin, there are players who train really bad and after play really well.

‘I know them, not about a single player. When 11 players don’t play good, something is missing.’

He also confirmed that John Stones would miss the derby through injury in a blow for City after the England defender returned from the World Cup in superb form.

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