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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has accused referees of stealing the spotlight from players following last weekend’s VAR controversy in the Premier League.

The 52-year-old has sympathised with rivals Liverpool after the Reds had a goal against Tottenham incorrectly disallowed for offside following a VAR review.

It was arguably the most contentious of all decisions taken since the technology was introduced and prompted the Merseyside club to issue a strong statement saying “sporting integrity” had been undermined.

Guardiola is concerned that such incidences are detracting from the game’s main actors.

He said: “I understand completely how upset Liverpool must be in that case.

“They will have to find a system where the main roles are the players and the game itself. In all the countries, not just here. The referees and the VARs are the leading roles. And the Oscar goes to.

“They have to make a step back, be more humble and leave the players to do what they have to do, and they will be better.”

Guardiola did not have any suggestions himself on how the system could be improved.

“I am not a professional at that,” the Spaniard said. “I rely on the people and we have to apply it as best as possible. I am not involved and I don’t care.

“Everyone knows they made a mistake and Liverpool suffered the big consequence of that. In this type of game it is so important. But, no worries, the consequences will dictate the players and the managers.”

Guardiola was speaking to the media via a Zoom call after City were forced to rearrange their travel plans for Wednesday’s Champions League game at RB Leipzig.

He had been due to hold a pre-match press conference at the RB Arena on arrival on Tuesday afternoon but their flight was rescheduled for evening due to strong winds in the German city.

Guardiola brushed off the impact of the disruption ahead of the Group G encounter.

He said: “It’s no problem. That it’s safe to fly and land, that’s the important thing.”

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola feels Liverpool have paid a big price for the VAR error (Martin Rickett/PA)

John Stones and Bernardo Silva were due to travel with the squad having recently returned to training following injury.

Stones has not played since the Community Shield due to a thigh problem while Silva has missed the last three games with a knock.

Guardiola said: “They feel better, Bernardo better than John. Both travel and we’ll decide tomorrow. We’re really happy they’re back.”

Rodri, who still has one game of a domestic suspension to serve, will feature before being given time off ahead of the upcoming international break.

Manchester City pay tribute to Francis Lee at training
Manchester City’s players paid tribute to Francis Lee ahead of their training session on Tuesday (Martin Rickett/PA)

The Spain midfielder was sorely missed in last weekend’s defeat at Wolves and his absence will again be felt at Arsenal on Sunday but Guardiola hopes some good can come from the situation.

He said: “You always have to take the positive. Rodri’s going to play the game tomorrow and then I’ll give him a rest, go to the Maldives for four or five days before joining the national team.”

Guardiola, wearing a black armband, also paid tribute to former City player and chairman Francis Lee, who died this week.

He said: “We are here (because of) people like Franny Lee, Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell, part of the generation that created a part of this organisation, this club.

“On behalf of the team, to his wife and all the family, a huge hug.”