Pep Guardiola says he wanted his Manchester City stars to “play into rhythm” after he made just one substitution in the 0-0 draw with Porto on Tuesday.
City completed their remaining objective for the initial stage of the Champions League as they secured top spot in Group C with a goalless draw away at Porto on Tuesday.
There is now nothing at stake for City in next week’s final group game against Marseille, meaning Guardiola can prioritise the games either side – a visit from Fulham and a derby trip to Manchester United.
He can plan with a near fully-fit squad and, after thrashing Burnley 5-0 last weekend and then making seven changes in Portugal, with form also at a level he is happy with.
Guardiola said: “I didn’t make substitutions (because) I think (players need) to play into rhythm like Joao (Cancelo), Bernardo (Silva), Oleks (Zinchenko), Eric (Garcia), Fernandinho. Rodri was playing well.
“I want to give them minutes. They showed me, like the players against Burnley, that everybody is fit and ready. They have to know this is the way.
“So I can trust the players that played here, without a doubt, the same I can trust the players that played against Burnley. It is a competition against them.
“That is the good news. Now after the qualification, with the Champions League (resuming) in February, now is the time to focus on the Premier League.”
City surrendered their 100 per cent record in Group C but, with their place in the last 16 already assured, their result in the Estadio do Dragao was a satisfactory one.
They still forced the pace but with Porto needing just a point themselves to reach the knockout stages they were frustrated by stubborn hosts happy to settle for a draw.
Raheem Sterling had the best chance of the first half when he had a shot cleared off the line. City created more opportunities after the break but Porto goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin was in fine form and Gabriel Jesus was denied what he thought was a late winner by VAR.
Guardiola insists performance, and not necessarily a need to rest players, will dictate who plays in upcoming games.
He said: “It is not resting players. All the players deserve to play. We are going to make a selection.
“It depends if they are tired, it depends on their behaviour on the pitch, the training field, the locker room and many, many situations. We will see.”
Life begins at 30. So did this lot’s time in the Premier League. Have we missed any golden oldies?