Premier League: Guardiola returns to Man City after emergency back surgery

Pep Guardiola has returned to Manchester City duty after undergoing emergency back surgery in Barcelona last month.

The City boss complained of “severe” pain last month before being rushed under the knife and, after a successful surgery, Guardiola remained in Spain while he recovered.

With Guardiola absent, managerial duties were left to assistant Juanma Lillo, who was in the dugout for the 2-1 win over Sheffield United and 5-1 triumph over Fulham before the international break.

However, Guardiola is now back at the City Football Academy and will take control of his side once again when they travel to face in-form West Ham United on Saturday.

While Lillo oversaw two victories and maintained City‘s perfect start to the season, the assistant did have to navigate some nervy moments against Sheffield United, conceding an equaliser in the 85th minute before Rodri struck in the dying embers to secure all three points.

The victory over Fulham was clearly more comfortable although City also profited from some questionable refereeing decisions. Erling Haaland, who bagged a hat-trick, admitted he felt one of his goals was offside but the biggest controversy came as Nathan Ake headed home the team’s second goal of the game late in the first half.

Ake’s header ended up in the back of the net after Fulham stopper Bernd Leno claimed to have been distracted by City’s Manuel Akanji, who was stood in an offside position and clearly moved near the ball, although the Swiss international did not make contact.

After a lengthy VAR review, the goal was controversially allowed to stand but PGMOL chief Howard Webb later admitted he believed Ake’s strike should have been ruled out.

“From the outset, I want to say this should have been disallowed,” he told Match Officials: Mic’d Up.

“These are not always easy to call because you are trying to get two pieces of information together. Is the player in an offside position, which official is in a good position to see, and what consequence was there of the player being in that position and how it impacts the opponents?

“It certainly appears that Akanji has an impact on Bernd Leno, the goalkeeper seems to hesitate. The officials on the field gave the goal, they did not see the obvious action that impacted Leno’s ability to play the ball.

“They did not feel it was clearly impactful on Leno’s ability to play the ball but when you see it, you can see that hesitation by the goalkeeper who was waiting to see whether the ball made contact with Akanji, which would have deflected the ball.

“Unfortunately it was not identified on the day and the learning from this will be shared from all of our group because we are looking to do better each and every week – and this was an error.”

What we know

  • Guardiola underwent surgery last month for ‘severe back pain’
  • Man City manager remained in Barcelona to recover and missed two games
  • West Ham host the Premier League champions on Saturday

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