Pep Guardiola pledges strong support to star man
Pep Guardiola has reasserted his faith in Sergio Aguero in an attempt to clear up any confusion over the prolific striker's future at Manchester City.
Guardiola's decision to leave Aguero out of his starting line-up to face Barcelona in the Champions League last week has been interpreted in some quarters as an indication of a lukewarm attitude towards the Argentinian.
But the City manager, who restored Aguero to the side in Sunday's draw against Southampton, insisted then the 28-year-old was an important part of his plans and now he has underlined the point.
Aguero has scored 11 goals this season and 147 for the club since his arrival from Atletico Madrid in 2011.
Speaking at a press conference, Guardiola said: "I want to be clear again. I am so happy with Sergio and hopefully he can stay for a long time here. I want from deep in my heart he can stay here and play with us.
"He is a special player, he is a striker who scores millions of goals in his career. I know for strikers it depends on the moment, but we cannot forget how many goals he scores for us."
Guardiola is yet to decide whether Aguero will feature in Wednesday's EFL Cup tie against rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford as he balances the temptation to rest players with the need to win.
City, after opening their campaign with 10 successive wins, have hit a sticky patch having failed to win in any of their last five.
Guardiola said: "We are going to rotate. Some of them who didn't play are going to play for sure, first because they deserve it and second because it was tough in last games. People are tired.
"But I still haven't decided because I need to see the players in the training session."
Ordinarily young players such as Aleix Garcia, Angelino, Tosin Adarabioyo and Pablo Maffeo would also come into the reckoning but Guardiola has suggested the majority of changes will be among senior players.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss, who has never gone six games without a win in his career, said: "Normally young players have to be involved when the team is in a good moment and we cannot forget the last five games we didn't win.
"To put three, four or five young players in at the same time is not good in that moment because you have to protect them."
One change will be enforced with Kevin De Bruyne out with an ankle injury and another that already seems decided is Willy Caballero for Claudio Bravo in goal.
Guardiola said: "The last time Willy played against Swansea, so I think it is going to happen again."
The derby clash comes at an intriguing time for both clubs with United at a low ebb following their 4-0 thrashing by Chelsea at the weekend.
But Guardiola said: "I always expect the best from United, not because they lost last weekend. With the quality and experience of Jose (Mourinho) and it is 'Man Utd' - that means a lot.
"In my experience as a football player and coach, always they are a good team. It doesn't matter how you play against them at Old Trafford, it doesn't matter if if is a good moment or another moment, it is always difficult.
"A derby is a derby, so it is always special. We are going to play seriously."