Pep Guardiola says he will not apologise for comments about Manchester City fans and believes his words have been misinterpreted.
After the 6-3 victory over RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Wednesday, the City boss said that he "would like more people" on Saturday for the Premier League clash with Southampton.
His comments resulted in a backlash from some supporters who felt he was being critical after a crowd of 38,062 at the 53,500-capacity Etihad Stadium watched the game against the German side, with the away section empty except for a handful of fans.
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What's been said?
"Did I say after the game against Leipzig that I was disappointed that the stadium was not full?" Guardiola told a news conference. "An interpretation is an interpretation, I am not going to apologise for what I said. I don't say anything wrong, I'm surprised about what happened about this.
"It's not the first time I said in my career, I said at Barcelona and Bayern [Munich], when we played a tough game like in the Champions League knowing that three days with a lack of preparation when Southampton had all week to prepare and how difficult it will be, I made an approach to do something together again the next Saturday at 3pm.
"What I said is I would love [it], we need the support, it doesn't matter how many people come but I invite them to come and enjoy the game cause we need their support. If after five seasons, people can't understand my behaviour, it's because they want to misunderstand what I said."
The bigger picture
Manchester City official supporters' club secretary Kevin Parker told Goal ahead of the game some of the reasons why the Champions League matches were unlikely to be sell-outs.
Among the reasons were the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, concerns around safety with the virus still prevalent and a smaller pool of "one-off" supporters willing to take up vacant tickets.
City averaged 54,130 during the 2018-19 Premier League season before the pandemic struck and around 52,000 attended each of their opening two matches in the Premier League this year.
"I always say if guys want to come we will be incredibly happy because I know how difficult the game will be and I prefer to be with my people, but if they don't come for any reason, it's perfect," Guardiola added.
"I never sit here and ask why didn't you come? If you don't come then don't. Mr Parker should review his comments, especially after the game, but I will never apologise to him, absolutely not."