Aguero's evolution dispelling Guardiola doubts

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Sergio Aguero (right) of Manchester City battles for possession against Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger during Sunday's Premier League match, which City won 1-0.

Sergio Aguero's next goal will be his 200th for Manchester City, but it is the Argentine's willingness to do much more than just score that has won the confidence of manager Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola embraced Aguero in a bear hug as he left the pitch after running himself into the ground in Sunday's 1-0 win over Chelsea, which edged City to within four wins of the Premier League title.

It marked the first time in eight home games Aguero failed to find the net, but that mattered little to Guardiola, who is now seeing the all-around game from Aguero he demands of his strikers.

"Since we were together here with Sergio, I think the last month, two months, is the best Sergio I have seen," said Guardiola, preparing his team for the visit of Basel in the Champions League on Wednesday.

"Not just scoring goals, but he doesn't lose one ball. He makes a movement or runs in behind, he is the first guy to make a high pressing, to help that second line be more comfortable with the ball."

Those words contrast sharply with a reportedly frosty relationship between the coach and his star striker during Guardiola's trophyless first season in England.

Aguero, 29, still scored 33 times in all competitions, more than he ever had for City in a single season, but often found himself on the sidelines in the second half of the campaign as Guardiola instead opted for Gabriel Jesus.

"In the first year at times we didn't adapt," Aguero told Spanish radio station Cadena SER.

"But this year, with all we have learned from last year, I think we have learned what he wants - how to play out from the back, the movements, so it makes it much easier on the pitch."

Aguero has also been aided by injury to Jesus, who sustained medial ligament damage to his left knee on Jan 31 and has only had three short cameos off the bench since returning to action.

During Jesus' two-month layoff, Aguero doubled his tally for the season to 30 goals and re-established himself as City's No 1 striker.

The club's decision not to get involved in a bidding war with Manchester United for Alexis Sanchez in January, despite City's long-standing interest in the Chilean and despite Guardiola having worked with him at Barcelona, was another vote of confidence in Aguero.

That trust is mutual, with Aguero now backing Guardiola as the best coach he has ever had.

"I've had a lot of coaches and they all had different thoughts and obviously differing tactics," said Aguero.

"The truth is, yes he's the best.

Missing medal

As City's all-time top scorer and the man who sealed the club's first Premier League title with a dramatic last-gasp strike against Queens Park Rangers in 2012, Aguero has already earned exalted status with fans. Yet, for all he has achieved since arriving at Etihad Stadium in 2011, he has yet to taste Champions League glory.

City, with the League Cup in its trophy cabinet and the Premier League virtually sewn up, has never been as well-equipped to win Europe's top club competition.

It looks assured of progress to the quarterfinals, leading Basel 4-0 from the first leg of its last-16 tie in Switzerland.

"If we keep going like this we have a very good chance," said Aguero. "The club has invested a lot of money to win the Champions League, so hopefully it is our year."

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