Man City cannot ignore Rodri plea again with obvious solution for Pep Guardiola


Rodrigo Hernandez Cascante, known as Rodri of Manchester City in action during the UEFA Champions League 2023/2024 quarter-finals first leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Final score: Real Madrid CF 3:3 Manchester City. 

Pep Guardiola tried to put on a brave face after Manchester City got away with an incredibly sloppy first half from their midfield maestro at Crystal Palace, claiming that players only look tired when they don't play well. However, after another start and another below-par performance at the Bernabeu the man himself admitted that he can't keep doing this.

He said the same to City coaches in the summer after a marathon campaign that saw him nail down his reputation as the best in the world in his position with a year of consistently excellent performances to drive his team to the Treble. It had been amazing, yet he knew that he could not keep doing it.

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City did try to listen, it was just their attempts at another Treble quickly got in the way. Kalvin Phillips, the man best placed to take the load off Rodri, never took his opportunities to gain Guardiola's trust and was sent off on loan in January after just zero Premier League starts; new signings Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes showed that they weren't ready to step up during a three-match suspension for Rodri in autumn that saw City lose every game.

A ban for too many yellow cards saw the Spaniard absent at Villa in December where City were well beaten all over the pitch in a defeat that left major questions for Guardiola and their title hopes. 

Since then, the Blues are unbeaten in 25 matches in all competitions and Rodri has started 22 of those including the last four in 10 days - setting a new personal record as it is now 65 games since he tasted defeat - to put them in contention to make more history.

Rodri has tried to get rest where he can, adapting to ease up in games where the contest is won if he cannot get an early substitution. However, only Phil Foden has more minutes in his legs this season and City need Rodri at his best if they are to win what they want to this season.

That means he needs to rest, and Luton at home is an obvious opportunity to let him put his feet up. Guardiola has picked teams in the last week with Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, and Foden left out so there is no reason why Rodri can't take it easy in the eight days before the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

The former Atletico midfielder is arguably the hardest man to replace in the team, although Kovacic has returned to form in recent months but also likely wouldn't play against Real providing De Bruyne has recovered from his bug. Rico Lewis is in a similar boat, proving at Palace he could play a hybrid role to help the midfield in a crunch Premier League game while also not being seen as first-choice for Real.

Even if they cannot do what Rodri at his best can, the last few matches have shown that flogging Rodri relentlessly reduces the quality of his output. 

City need Rodri to be at his best, but they also need a squad capable of beating Luton at home without him, if they are to push all the way this season.

Saturday is the perfect opportunity to allow both parts of that to come to fruition.

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