Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gave encouraging news on Gabriel Jesus’ rehabilitation from a knee ligament injury as he refused to discuss his club’s reported pursuit of Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez.
Brazil striker Jesus has scored 10 goals in all competitions for the Premier League leaders this season but was forced on to the sidelines by a medial collateral ligament strain suffered during the 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace on New Year’s Eve.
It was feared the 20-year-old could face up to two months out but, after a session with Guardiola’s favoured orthopaedic surgeon Dr Ramon Cugat in Barcelona on Thursday, the City boss is confident Jesus can play a part in the Champions League last-16 tie against Basel – the first leg of which will take place on February 13.
“Gabriel was in Barcelona with Dr Cugat and things are quite good,” Guardiola told a news conference ahead of Sunday’s eagerly anticipated Premier League clash against Liverpool at Anfield.
“I think in two or three weeks, for the Champions League game against Basel he could be ready.”
Jesus’ injury gave further weight to rumours City would step up their attempts to lure Sanchez to the Etihad Stadium this month.
A move for the 29-year-old, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona, could not be completed on transfer deadline day in August and City were reported by The Guardian this week to have lodged a fresh £20million bid for a player who is out of contract in June.
Manchester United are also speculated to hold an interest but Guardiola was keen to remain focused on events on the field, with City facing a trip to a ground where they last won in May 2003.
“I understand completely this question, you make this question, but I am focused on Liverpool,” he said. “As a manager, you have a lot of worlds to deal with and you have to choose which one you are going to focus on.
“I would not like my players, when they see me on TV and read in the newspapers, [to see] the manager talking about another thing like they are not important. The important thing is the 90 minutes on the field.
“They have two choices – follow what you [journalists] said or follow me. I am going to try and convince them to talk about football on the pitch.”
Guardiola went on to observe that football journalism in England is consumed by transfer gossip and off-field events when compared to coverage in Spain, which he feels is more focused on match action.
“Spain made a big step forward with the national team and the clubs 10 years ago when the journalists talked about what happened before and after the game on the pitch,” he said, in an observation that was later challenged by a member of the Spanish press corps in Manchester.
“The people there talk more than usual about what is on the pitch.
“Of course, I answer all your questions, sometimes I don’t know the answers and sometimes I don’t answer for my players.
“I didn’t say that English coverage is immature. I just explained how It was in the last 10 years in Spain. Why, for example, does Arsene Wenger operate with four at the back his entire career and now he plays five at the back? In Barcelona, in Spain there would be a big debate about that.”
Guardiola added: “It’s not necessary to say the quality of Alexis, everyone knows how good he is. I’m sorry, I am not going to answer about Alexis or other players.”