Guardiola left out several key players in his side’s recent Champions League victory at the Santiago Bernabeu
Pep Guardiola has lauded Sergio Aguero for his “incredible” reaction to learning he was not in the starting line-up against Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Neither Aguero nor David Silva got off the bench as City claimed a 2-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu to take control of the Champions League last-16 tie.
Both players, along with Raheem Sterling, will now be pushing to start on Sunday when City aim to win a third EFL Cup in a row by defeating Aston Villa at Wembley.
Far from feeling they reacted angrily to being left out of the side in the Spanish capital, Guardiola has called for every player to follow the example set by Silva, Sterling and Aguero in particular.
“In these three guys, the behaviour in the locker room was an incredible exception, specifically these three players,” he said on Friday. “It was exceptional. I’m so proud about the reaction they had, knowing they wanted to play, of course, I understand that.
“Sergio was incredible, honestly, I never could express my gratitude and my thanks to him, to understand me a little bit and to help the team, being a legend as he is for what he has done for this club.
“I need him; we need him. I know he is ready to help us, and David as well, and even John [Stones], and Oleks [Zinchenko], and Eric [Garcia] as well, on the bench. My complete gratitude. I would love all the players to be like them.”
Guardiola hopes the result in Madrid gives his side confidence as they aim to win what would be an eighth domestic trophy out of the last 11 available to them.
Along with back-to-back EFL Cup and Premier League triumphs, City have also won two Community Shields and last season’s FA Cup since finishing empty-handed in Guardiola’s first campaign in charge.
“Of course, it’s better, it’s much better to go to play a final after a good result in Madrid but we cannot live a final thinking how good we were,” he said.
“[The tie] is not done, first of all. Always I thought that it’s incredibly difficult to win at big, big clubs, but it’s an incredible challenge, more difficult to beat them twice. Normally, it doesn’t happen. The big clubs can lose one game, but two? Rarely, it’s not often. But it helps.
“In football, teams are a state of emotion. It’s better to go to play a final not just with results but with the character, the way we played.
Guardiola expects Aymeric Laporte to be sidelined for up to a month with a hamstring problem sustained in Madrid, but the City manager had better news on Leroy Sane, who is to play for the Under-23 side as part of his recovery from a serious knee injury.
“There are a few things I don’t like about your country, for example the academy teams cannot play in strongest leagues, but at the same time it’s an incredible, good decision here in England that players for the first team, to recover, can play in the second one for their recovery,” he added.
“I don’t want to put a target line [on Sane’s first-team comeback]. We will see the game and speak with him.”