Pep Guardiola has welcomed a show of support for Oleksandr Zinchenko as the Ukrainian defender in charge of Manchester City in their FA Cup match at Peterborough United.
As his country was invaded by Russian troops, Zinchenko rose to prominence on the football field after being handed a belt by Fernandinho.
It was a step designed to show solidarity with the 25-year-old as he awaits news from what Guardiola describes as “this nightmare” in Zinchenko’s country.
“It’s not an easy time for Oleks,” Guardiola told a news conference. “His family, his country, but playing football is much better for him right now.”
In a separate BBC interview, Guardiola said of the left-back: “Unfortunately his citizens of Ukraine are living in a very bad and crazy state of affairs. Everyone here in Peterborough, not just our fans, has shown him warmth.
“I hope this nightmare can end soon.”
Goals from Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish in the second half took City to the quarter-finals.
Both are co-hosted by Phil Foden, who has surpassed Greish in an eye-catching City coach.
Grealish later revealed that it was inspired to watch excerpts of Guardiola’s previous Barcelona case against Lionel Messi in action.
“The world from Phil was very good. It was exactly like Phil’s pass to Joao (Cancelo) at Brugge in the Champions League, and control was very good for Jack,” Guardiola said.
The City manager added: “They were great goals. Riyadh’s level and second goal are the same. It was good.
“We created chances. They were all smart. Riyad always had this level in the last three games – he is the best player we have in third place. He has scored a very good goal. I am proud of the game he has played.”
There was a bit of a concern ahead of Sunday’s game against Manchester United when Guardiola took on starting defenders Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake at half-time in hopes of striking out a surprise. Aymeric Laporte and John Stones have shown potential change.
The City manager said Dias was “unwell in his leg”, and Ake was affected when he played poorly in the first half.
“That’s why, in order to be vigilant and vigilant, we have made changes,” Guardiola said. “It was unplanned. I would say it was a doctor’s decision.”