Pep Guardiola has revealed England international Kalvin Phillips was a surprising omission from Manchester City’s 3-2 EFL Cup win over Liverpool on Thursday night because he returned from the World Cup unfit for training.
While England team-mates John Stones, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish all came on in the win, Phillips, who played 40 minutes in two substitute matches for Gareth Southgate in Qatar, wasn’t even in the squad.
“He’s not in good shape,” Guardiola said. “He didn’t arrive in the best conditions to train.”
Meanwhile, Guardiola paid tribute to ‘grumpy’ Kevin De Bruyne for a superb display against City rivals.
The Belgian midfielder put a poor World Cup behind him to score two goals with the kind of vintage performance that has become his go-to trade in eight years with City.
But Guardiola admitted his star had to light a fire within himself to pull off such a performance.
“He was brilliant today, outstanding,” Guardiola said. “Kevin has been here for eight years and you know him as well as I do.
“Kevin has to be grumpy to play his best”
“Sometimes he just needs to find the right fire inside himself – he has to be a bit, I mean ‘grumpy’ or upset – to play his best.
“He has to go there to draw energy from himself and when that happens what a player is – assisting, scoring goals – it’s another player.
“I know it’s not easy to find that consistency every three days, but in important games there’s something inside that says, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ When that happens, he’s Kevin De Bruyne.
” What can I say ? In eight years, he has done everything for this club, he is a legend. He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time for this club.
With City fielding a strong squad, the only unfamiliar face was 18-year-old full-back Rico Lewis, who was named man of the match by his manager on his third start for the club.
“I felt that without him we couldn’t play the way we played,” Guardiola said.
“Absolutely, I was really impressed. It’s not about intelligence with the ball, it’s about without it. We had the privilege of announcing that this guy will have a big decade with us.
“Rico Lewis will be an incredible player”
“He will be an incredible player for Man City in the next few years because he is so smart, so humble. We have an incredible leader.
“He still plays well but it was mostly against Liverpool, a real, real Nunez team, Salah, Thiago and Robertson by his side.
“He is 18 years old. His way of playing was exceptional. He was the man of the match.”
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was impressed with much of his side’s performance and both of their goals, especially as they came after the 40-day World Cup break.
But he admitted his side weren’t good enough to beat the team he considers the best in the world.
“It was a spectacular game, I would say, and high intensity,” Klopp said.
“There’s a lot to take from it, the result not but between us played probably the best team in the world, it’s amazing how they are, and it’s normal that you struggle at times.
“We won’t play every three days against Man City but we can do better and we will work on it.”
Klopp is hoping to have Trent Alexander-Arnold, ill on Thursday, and Virgil van Dijk available for his team’s trip to Aston Villa on Boxing Day.