Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola claims England midfielder Kalvin Phillips returned from the World Cup “overweight” and “not in the right condition to train”.
The summer signing from Leeds had made just four substitute appearances this season because of a shoulder injury and was initially a doubt to make Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
While Phillips’ England team-mates John Stones, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish all made appearances during Man City’s 3-2 Carabao Cup win over Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium, the midfielder, who played 40 minutes in two substitute appearances for in Qatar, was a surprise omission from the squad.
When asked why Phillips wasn’t in the right shape to feature against Liverpool, Guardiola said: “He’s not injured. He arrived overweight. I don’t know [why].
“He didn’t arrive in the condition to do training sessions and to play.”
A reporter went on to ask: “But he has been away with England, with nutritionists, etc…?”
Guardiola responded: “No, no, no, no. Absolutely. That’s why he cannot play. When he will be ready, he will play, because we need him, we need him a lot.”
When asked if that was disappointing, Guardiola added: “It’s a private conversation with Kalvin.”
Guardiola is also without another World Cup star, although for slightly more legitimate reasons after he picked up a hamstring injury in his last game for Portugal in Qatar.
“Ruben Dias is injured. Ruben has a hamstring from the last game in the World Cup and he is out,” he added.
What’s next for Man City?
Manchester City resume their Premier League campaign with a trip to Phillips’ former side Leeds on December 28; kick-off 8pm.
Man City’s busy few weeks…
- Dec 28: Leeds United (A) – kick-off 8pm (Premier League)
- Dec 31: Everton (H) – kick-off 3pm (Premier League)
- Jan 5: Chelsea (A) – kick-off 8pm, live on Sky Sports (Premier League)
- Jan 8: Chelsea (H) – kick-off 4.30pm (FA Cup)
- Jan 10: Southampton (A) – 7.45pm (Carabao Cup)
- Jan 14: Man Utd (A) – kick-off 12.30 (Premier League)
- Jan 19: Tottenham (H) – kick-off 8pm (Premier League)
- Jan 22: Wolves (H) – kick-off 2pm (Premier League)
Pep: Rico Lewis set for ‘big decade’
Meanwhile, Guardiola believes Manchester City have unearthed a star for the next 10 years in teenage right-back Rico Lewis.
The 18-year-old academy graduate grabbed his latest first-team opportunity by producing a fine display in City’s hard-fought win over rivals Liverpool.
It came after Lewis scored on his first senior start against Sevilla in the Champions League early last month and was his seventh appearance of the season in total.
“I have the feeling that without him we could not play the way we played,” said City manager Guardiola who, with Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo having just returned from the World Cup, had no qualms throwing Lewis into what proved a high-intensity encounter.
“I’m absolutely really impressed, for a young age, how he played against a real, real senior team.
“It is not about with-the-ball intelligence, it is about without it.
“We had the privilege to almost announce that this guy will take a big decade, will be an absolutely incredible player for Manchester City in the next years because he is so intelligent, so humble. He understands everything in just one second and applies everything.
“He’s so clever. We have an incredible right full-back with us for the next few years.
“He always plays good, but not (just) against Liverpool. Liverpool are special, with (Darwin) Nunez, (Mohamed) Salah, Thiago (Alcantara) and (Andy) Robertson on his side.
“He is 18-years-old and the way he played was outstanding. He was man of the match.”