Soccer - Guardiola not apologising for asking more fans to attend Saints match

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Group A - Manchester City v RB Leipzig - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - September 15, 2021 Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola reacts Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola said he will not apologise for urging supporters to show up in greater numbers for Saturday's Premier League home game against Southampton.

Guardiola had commented on the thousands of empty seats at City's 6-3 Champions League win over RB Leipzig on Wednesday, which was watched by just over 38,000 fans -- well below the Etihad Stadium's capacity of about 54,000.

Kevin Parker, the general secretary of City's official supporters' club, said he was surprised by the remarks and suggested Guardiola should stick to coaching, but the manager said his words were misinterpreted.

"Did I say after the game that I was disappointed that the stadium was not full? I am not going to apologise for what I said," Guardiola told a news conference on Friday.

"What I said was we need the support. It doesn't matter how many people come but I invite them to come and enjoy the game because we need the support. I am entirely grateful for the support that we had against Leipzig.

"I never sit here and ask why people don't come. If you can't come then don't. I will not apologise to him (Parker)."

Guardiola added that defenders Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, who missed the midweek Champions League win with muscle injuries, had not recovered in time for Saturday's game, but he epsxected fellow centre back Nathan Ake to be available.

Guardiola described Southampton as one of the toughest opponents City faced last season and credited their improvement to manager Ralph Hasenhuettl, who he faced with Bayern Munich when the Austrian led RB Leipzig to second in the Bundesliga.

"They are so brilliant, they are incredibly organised. I know Ralph from my period in Germany, it will be a similar game to Leipzig," Guardiola said.

"I saw how difficult it was for my team in the dressing room and I know Southampton will be tough, so I asked the people to come help them (the team).

"They've had a long week to prepare, that's why we need everyone together to do our best. I know our fans will be there tomorrow to support us and hopefully Mr Parker can come to watch us."

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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