Disgruntled Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola claims England midfielder Kalvin Phillips has returned from the World Cup ‘not in the right conditions to train’.
The £42million summer signing from Leeds, who played just 40 minutes in Qatar, had made just four substitute appearances this season due to a shoulder injury and was initially doubtful even for to be part of Gareth Southgate’s team.
However, he returned in a state that Guardiola said did not warrant his inclusion in the squad for the 3-2 Carabao Cup fourth-round win over Liverpool.
“Kalvin Phillips is out of shape. He didn’t arrive in the best condition to train and play,” the City boss said.
Guardiola is also without another World Cup star, albeit for slightly more legitimate reasons.
“Ruben Dias is injured. Ruben has a hamstring from the last World Cup game and he’s out.
Guardiola could at least count on another player who disappointed at the World Cup – Kevin de Bruyne.
The Belgian playmaker found his spark again in his first game for his club, providing assists for two of the goals and generally dominating throughout.
“The first training session where he was back I wasn’t there but I was told it was brilliant, the match against Girona was brilliant and today he was exceptional,” added Guardiola.
“He just has to find the right fire inside himself, just to be a bit, I would say grumpy or upset to play his best. It’s his energy inside of him.
“When that happens, what is a player: running, helping to score goals, he’s more than a player.
“I know it’s not easy to find this regularity every three days but today there is something inside that says ‘I’m going, I want to fight’.
“When that happens, it’s Mr. Kevin de Bruyne. What can I say, eight years of doing everything for this club, an absolute legend, he will forever be remembered as one of the greatest, greatest, greatest players at this club.
But while De Bruyne came back from a disappointing World Cup with the determination to regain his levels, midfielder Kalvin Phillips did not.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hailed a “spectacular game” although he lamented a certain slackness in the defence.
“We probably played the best team in the world (so) it’s normal that you struggle at times,” he said.
“We won’t play every three days against Manchester City but we can do better and we will work on it.
“We should have defended the three goals better. The third goal especially, we are not on when they start their little routine and with the center coming we are not in the right positions.
“So obviously there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but we had our moments, we could have scored more goals.
“But we can do better and we’ll work on it and then let’s make sure we’re ready for Aston Villa (Boxing Day).”