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Pep denies grass length conspiracy theory

City boss responds to claims that grass at Etihad was kept deliberately long to slow down Liverpool

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola denied claims that the grass at the Etihad Stadium was kept deliberately long to slow down Liverpool during the Citizens' 2-1 home win last Thursday.

The result was English Premier League leaders Liverpool's first league defeat of the season and keep the title race alive as City narrowed the gap to the Reds to four points.

The claims regarding the Etihad Stadium surface were made on the Anfield Wrap podcast.

SEMI-FINAL 2, LEG 1
MAN CITY BURTON ALBION

In his pre-match press conference ahead of City's League Cup semi-final, first leg clash with Burton Albion tomorrow morning (Singapore time), Guardiola responded to the claims saying: "I'm not the greenkeeper.

"I never did - if they want to play quick, we want to play quicker; always we try to put water but it's not necessary here because of the weather.

"We want to cut the field all the 10 years (of my coaching career).

"It's better conditions for both teams - when this happens, you do the best for opponents.

"We have to respect... the rules.

"I never speak with the groundsman.

"I did at the beginning in the summer time for many reasons.

"But I have too many issues in my head to worry about the grass.

"I trust the groundsman, I never made a phone call to say 'do this to damage our opponents'."

With main EPL rivals Liverpool fielding a weakened team in their 2-1 FA Cup loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Guardiola insists his side will be going all out to retain the League Cup.

Said the Spaniard: "Winning is important.

"The League Cup is the more local competition.

"Everybody is happy to win and nobody is sad if they go out in the competition.

"We are here in the semi-final and we want to win."

Guardiola also responded to questions about 19-year-old Brahim Diaz's decision not to extend his contract and leave for Real Madrid for £15.5 million (S$26.8 million), saying he only wanted players who want to be at the club.

Said the 47-year-old: "We don't want people who don't want to be here.

"If you want to stay, stay.

"If you want to go, the openings will be there.

"We did with Brahim what we did with Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden. Phil decided to stay.

"Going to Real Madrid is not a bad step in his (Diaz's) career.

"We wish him all the best because he's a nice guy.

"Congratulations to the academy. It shows that it is working really well if teams like Real Madrid want players from our academy."

While Diaz has exited the Etihad, Guardiola had good news regarding the availability of fullback Benjamin Mendy, who has been sidelined since last November after knee surgery.

"He is training. I think in two or three weeks he will be with us. Everybody is fit (for tomorrow)," said the City boss.

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