Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has warned his free-scoring side not to underestimate the threat posed by Dinamo Zagreb as the Champions League returns to the Etihad Stadium this week.
City go into Tuesday’s clash in fine form, having won their four matches since the shock Premier League defeat at Norwich by a combined 17-1 scoreline.
Guardiola’s men already have three points on the board in Group C following their 3-0 away win over Shakhtar Donetsk, but it is Dinamo who top the pool courtesy of their 4-0 mauling of Atalanta.
And Guardiola insists his side cannot afford to take the Croatian champions lightly in their first home European encounter since April’s heartbreaking quarter-final exit at the hands of Tottenham.
He told a press conference: “To play five at the back and score four goals (against Atalanta) is not bad.
“They are aggressive and with long balls to the strikers, they are so strong. We have to be careful.”
While City have had few problems showing their formidable firepower up front once again this season, things have not been so straightforward for them at the other end of the pitch.
The Premier League champions have lost defenders John Stones and Aymeric Laporte to injury and, with captain Vincent Kompany leaving in the summer, Guardiola has been forced to employ midfielder Fernandinho at centre-back.
The Brazil international is now 34, but Guardiola played down concerns over his ability to cope with a high workload.
“If he is fit he can play (twice a week). It depends on him in terms of physical regeneration,” Guardiola said.
“We have young alternatives but he has played three games in the past.”
The City manager also praised the form of winger Riyad Mahrez, who has scored three goals in his last four appearances.
“He is so important. Always the players here we want (at their) best,”
Guardiola said. “He is so clinical. Defensively his commitment is higher this season and offensively you always have the feeling something is going to happen.”
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