Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva has called on referees to “do their job” and protect his team-mates from overly physical opponents.
The Premier League leaders swept West Brom aside at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday to move 15 points clear at the top of the table, but their 3-0 victory came at a price.
David Silva was forced off with a suspected hip injury and both Kevin De Bruyne and Brahim Diaz were on the receiving end of robust tackles from James McClean and Matt Phillips respectively.
Phillips’ lunge, which earned a yellow card, seemed to anger Guardiola in particular as it came just days after Leroy Sane suffered ankle ligament damage following a crude challenge from Cardiff City’s Joe Bennett.
Bernardo Silva believes there is a clear intention from opposing teams to unsettle City with strong tackles and has urged officials to do more to prevent further injuries.
Asked if City were being targeted, he replied: “Obviously. The coach and everyone already spoke about that.
“It’s clear over the last few months, we’ve seen with Leroy it was a terrible accident and now he’s injured for two months – a very important player.
“[On Wednesday] it could have been Brahim, it could have been Kevin on the second goal. I think, as the coach says, the referees have to do their job and, if it’s a red card, they have to give the red card. They are not doing that over the last few months.
“We hope that soon they start protecting our players because the way other teams are tackling our players is not part of the game, it’s not fair play and they have to try to punish the players that play this way.”
The former Monaco star does not believe the Premier League is more physical than Ligue 1, but feels referees are more likely to allow play to continue rather than penalise tough tackling.
“France is really physical; I think maybe even a little bit more than here,” he said. “What you have here is obviously the referees let you play a little bit more, so the game is more intense, and the quality of the players [is higher] because the teams in England have more money and they pay better salaries so obviously they have better players.
“It’s the best league in the world – most of the people know that – it’s complicated to play here. It’s physical and very technical at the same time and it’s always difficult to play against this kind of team.”
With Sane expected miss up to seven weeks and City having failed to sign Riyad Mahrez on deadline day, Bernardo Silva is expected to play a more regular role in Guardiola’s plans in the coming matches.
The Portugal international hopes he can start to justify the reported £43million fee City paid to bring him from Monaco last May.
“I’ve never played much on the left but this season I’ve played a few times on the left, on the right, in the middle, as a number nine in the last game. It’s not my normal position but I feel comfortable to play in the middle as well,” he said.
“I know I’m not a fast player like Sane or Sterling, I know I cannot do some of the things that they can. But I try to do other things and of course I try to improve myself.
“I feel like I’m getting better and better. I want to try to get even better because this is not even close to what I can do for this team so I think I’m improving and I want to improve more and more.
“I knew when I first arrived that it wouldn’t be easy to get into the team probably as fast I wanted to. I’m feeling really well, I’m feeling like I’m helping the team.
“That’s what I wanted to do: to help this this club achieve their goals because they put a lot of trust in me when they paid a lot of money so I’m trying every game to give 100 per cent of myself to get better and better to help the team.”
City’s win, coupled with Manchester United’s defeat to Tottenham and Chelsea’s shock 3-0 home loss to Bournemouth, has put the leaders 15 points clear with 13 matches left to play.