Football

Pep calls for player protection after injuries to de Bruyne, Jesus

Man City boss says EPL refs must do more after injuries to Jesus and de Bruyne

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has demanded more protection for players after seeing Kevin de Bruyne narrowly avoid serious injury as his side's 18-game winning streak came to an end at Crystal Palace on Sunday.

MAN CITY WATFORD

De Bruyne was stretchered off after being hacked down by Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon as City broke in search of a late winner at Selhurst Park, following Ederson's injury-time penalty save from Luka Milivojevic.

The Belgium midfielder's injury is not as bad as first feared but Guardiola said he was unlikely to be ready to face Watford at the Etihad tomorrow morning (Singapore time), according to AFP.

There was worse news over City striker Gabriel Jesus, who hobbled off in the first half with a knee problem that will sideline the Brazilian for at least "one month, maybe two", Guardiola said.

City are 14 points clear of nearest challengers Chelsea at the top of the English Premiership, although Manchester United, who are a further point adrift, will move second if they beat Everton this morning (Singapore time).

Guardiola's main concern, however, was the tackle by Puncheon, the latest in a series of challenges the manager believes could have inflicted serious injury on his players in recent games.

"I admire the physicality in the Premier League but the referees have to protect the players," said the Catalan.

"Not just the best players. All the players. I haven't spoken to the FA (Football Association) about it. They focus on diving, on these kind of things.

"I know the contact is allowed here more than any other country, but there is a limit."

Guardiola said there was no need to change the physical style of English football but he called for a balance.

"There is a line where you go above and it is dangerous," he said.

"Sometimes, because the football is quicker and faster, it happens, they don't want to hurt the other. But they can be out for a long time."

The loss of Jesus could strengthen City's resolve to sign Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez during this month's transfer window, although Guardiola played down the possibility of a move for the Chile international.

"He is a player for Arsenal and I think he is going to stay there," said the City boss.

"In two days, we have another game (and) after that we have meetings. My feeling now is Alexis is an Arsenal player."

Former Aston Villa and Holland midfielder George Boateng believes Sanchez could inspire City if he makes the move from the Emirates to the Etihad.

He told Sky Sports: "City have the most complete squad and it is very difficult for Guardiola to improve the squad. Can you find a player that is better than what you've got? It's really difficult.

FRESH INSPIRATION

"Alexis Sanchez is the one that can probably give a new, fresh inspiration to the squad.

"Will Arsenal let their prize asset go, I don't think so... With six months left (on his contract) what's the point of selling him now? You'd rather take the points that he can give Arsenal than to take the money."

City, however, can expect to take all three points against the Hornets. Watford are on a horrible run of form, winning just one of their last eight league games and racking up four points out of a possible 24.

Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson believes City will coast to an easy 4-0 win, telling the BBC: "Someone will beat them. But not this Watford side.

"They have been all over the shop ever since Everton made their unsuccessful approach for manager Marco Silva.

"They have lost five of their past six games and the players' form has just evaporated."

Football