Guardiola hails ‘Superman’ Otamendi

Pep Guardiola has hailed defender Nicolas Otamendi as Manchester City’s ‘Superman’.

Guardiola hails ‘Superman’ Otamendi

Most of the plaudits during the Premier League leaders’ record 18-game winning streak have been shared among their formidable attacking players.

But centre-back Otamendi has also been vitally important, both defensively and by contributing to other aspects of play.

The Argentinian, arguably City’s most improved player this season, has proved a key component of the attacking build-up and has also weighed in with five goals in all competitions.

City manager Guardiola said: “We have a ‘Superman’ in the team, as Nico Otamendi helped us absolutely. Without Nico, it would not be possible, what we have done.

“Everyone speaks about players such as Raheem (Sterling), like David (Silva), like Kevin (De Bruyne), like Sergio (Aguero) — and they deserve it — but if I would like to point to a player who deserves full respect, for what they have done until now, it’s Nico. Nico has been amazing.

“He is a guy who, even with pain in the ankle, in the knee, in the back, always fights. He’s one the hugest competitors I’ve ever seen in my life. He was so important.”

Guardiola’s praise for Otamendi comes at a time when City are thought to be considering buying another centre-back in the January transfer window. Otamendi has missed just one Premier League match this season — through suspension — but John Stones and Vincent Kompany have both had injuries, leaving Eliaquim Mangala as the only cover.

Guardiola said: “I don’t know what will happen. Maybe if we are in the position with Vincent and what happened to John Stones (we could buy), but we cannot forget Mangala has helped us a lot.

“If I have to live for the rest of the season with these players, and with the young players, we are going to live with that.”

Virgil van Dijk was thought to be a potential target before it was announced this week he would be joining Liverpool from Southampton in a deal worth £75m (€84m).

In a week when Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has suggested City have paid extraordinary amounts for defenders, Guardiola insists there is nothing untoward in that fee.

He said: “Liverpool took an amazing player, Van Dijk is an exceptional central defender. That’s a price we’ll see (again) in the future. If he plays six or seven years at a high level it would be cheap.

“John Stones, when he came here, people said he was too expensive. Now he’s too cheap. It always depends on the value of what happens on the pitch.”

Guardiola is contracted until the end of next season but is expected to discuss a new deal in the summer. He has already shown some commitment to the area by purchasing an apartment near Manchester city centre.

He said: “I bought an apartment because I have to live somewhere, and I’m happy to live in the city.

“It happened the same when I was a player at Roma, at Brescia, and in Munich. I prefer to live in the city and be with the people.”

Roy Hodgson is wary of the threat posed by Manchester City to Crystal Palace but he is also convinced English football has seen teams of their quality before.

Premier League leaders City visit Palace tomorrow hoping to secure a 19th consecutive league victory and equal the record set by Bayern Munich when Guardiola was the Germans’ manager.

“We have seen it in England before, there’s no question of that,” said Palace manager Hodgson, 70.

“Wonderful Arsenal teams, wonderful Manchester United teams, very strong Chelsea teams that have dominated the league, and we’re seeing a very strong Manchester City.

“Like those previous good teams, managed by Arsene, by Alex Ferguson, Chelsea managed by Jose Mourinho, the managers of those teams don’t seem to want to let up in any way, have that desire to take their foot off the pedal and cruise, roll downhill to a victory. They always seem very, very determined that they won’t spare anybody.

“I wasn’t actually in the country when Arsene and Arsenal did it: their 49 games unbeaten and their 38-game league season unbeaten. I know that team: Watched the players in that team, but I wasn’t in the country when it happened.”

Palace on Thursday lost 3-2 at home to Arsenal, when Yohan Cabaye was substituted after receiving a knock that means he remains a doubt for Sunday’s fixture.

Two days after hosting City they then visit Southampton, and the manager said: “We have loads (of niggles).

“We’re going to be feeling an element of fatigue that’s not helped by the fact we’re facing Southampton one day after. We’ve been unluckily drawn to play Sunday-Tuesday. We don’t have the depth that some teams have: Two games in two days is going to stretch us.”

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