Pep Guardiola does not usually like to reveal anything about his selections in the Manchester City team.
But ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Peterborough United he understandably wanted to leave no ambiguity surrounding Oleksandr Zinchenko’s involvement in the FA Cup fifth round tie. “Yes, he will [play],” he said.
“[He is] absolutely fine [to play], I think it will be good for him to play and show what he is here for. He’s a wonderful player [and] needs to play football.
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Phil Foden may have scored a dramatic late winner in what could be a pivotal moment in the title race and Rodri could have got away with it remarkably well with the handling in his own box, but there was a defining image of Saturday’s 1-0 win at Everton.
Zinchenko stood to the side of the pitch in tears, after embracing international team-mate Vitaliy Mykolenko to cheers during warm-ups, as both teams showed solidarity with the Ukrainian people ahead of kick-off – united in calls for the violence of the Russian invasion cease.
The 25-year-old’s response to the unfolding tragedy has been emotional and visible in recent days, from his appearance at a vigil in St. Peter’s Square last Thursday to his Instagram posts strongly condemning the war. of Russia.
“Human beings have an incredible ability to adapt and overcome difficult situations,” Guardiola continued. “Of course when he’s at home talking to his family and friends and watching the videos [of what is happening in Ukraine]of course, he cannot be happy.
“But in training with his mates, talking in the locker room, football is so addictive, the ball is so appealing. That’s why when they’re there and playing. In a short time he can forget. Then he comes back to his wife and daughter, I imagine it must be hard.”
As words on a screen, it might sound a bit flippant, but Guardiola’s sense of fulfilling his duty of care to his players is strong.
During the Centurions season, David Silva’s personal life was thrown into a heartbreaking crisis. The partner of Spanish great Yessica Suarez Gonzalez gave birth to their extremely premature son Mateo in December 2017.
Guardiola told Silva to return to Valencia to be with his family and not worry about football, just come back to play when he wanted.
Silva has continued to play a central role in City’s record-breaking campaign and, thankfully, young Mateo’s health has improved.
Dad and son appeared in a video message during City’s title celebrations and at the start of the following season the baby was guest of honor at the home opener against Huddersfield when Silva scored a lavish free kick.
“The only times I could get it out of my mind was on the pitch,” he said, speaking to Gary Lineker for Premier League Productions about the ordeal.
Former England striker Lineker went through a similar ordeal when his son was diagnosed with leukemia aged two and also came to Silva’s conclusion
“I would start thinking about everything once the game was over,” the playmaker added. “It was a really good escape.”
Silva’s predicament and the situation Zinchenko currently finds himself in are very different. One was deeply personal but had hope for a beautiful happy ending that came about gradually and painstakingly.
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Despite stories and snapshots of his countrymen’s incredible challenge, Zinchenko is unlikely to spot many rays of light right now. Silva also traveled from Spain to be with his family; Oleks will have dear friends he just has to hope to see again.
One similarity is the devastating helplessness that Silva will have felt and that Zinchenko now knows. It’s here that the solace in football that David has found and Oleks is hopefully getting to know training session by training session.
He is sure to be cheered on at the rafters of London Road on an FA Cup occasion, in keeping with the proud traditions of the competition that made us all dream as children.
It’s up to Zinchenko to get lost in another 90 minutes of realizing those personal dreams, up to him to enjoy some nice respite from the horrors.
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