Saturday 23 February 2019

Pep has no fixture gripes amid four-fronts war

City boss Pep Guardiola
City boss Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola insists he will not complain about Manchester City's schedule as they continue to chase glory on four fronts.

City's continuing involvement in four competitions this season means that the games will come thick and fast in the second half of the season.

Their progress to the League Cup final means that they will now face Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday, February 25 with their Premier League clash against the Gunners being put back to the following Thursday.

That will be followed by a Premier League visit from Chelsea on March 4 with a Champions League clash against Basel three days later.

Those four high-profile fixtures will offer Guardiola and his squad little respite but the City boss claims he is happier that way and his players must adjust.

He said: "There are a lot of games, we play a lot, and we still have to play a lot.

"But it is what it is. I prefer to be in the position we have. Last season we were not in the four competitions. We are going to see where we arrive.

"Every game is so important in every competition. Game by game we will see how is our level." Two seasons ago Guardiola's predecessor Manuel Pellegrini fielded a youthful side in an FA Cup fifth-round tie at Chelsea to allow his senior stars more time to prepare for a Champions League game at Dynamo Kiev.

City had wanted the game to be played on a Saturday but, after it was scheduled for Sunday, Pellegrini decided to make a stand and his side were beaten 5-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Guardiola said: "I understood completely what the club did, but here the television decides the fixtures and we're going to adjust to that. We'd prefer more time but we are in four competions and we have to adapt. Sometimes you have one more day, sometimes less days. It is what it is."

Guardiola, speaking at a press conference, is preparing his Premier League leaders to face Cardiff in the FA Cup fourth round tomorrow.

The match against the side third in the Championship presents an interesting clash between Guardiola's free-flowing style and the more robust tactics of veteran manager Neil Warnock. Guardiola said: "I saw Mansfield v Cardiff and analysed how they play. I have a lot of respect for what they do, and they do it quite well. They are second or third in the Championship and, playing away, it will be tough."

Some of City's toughest games this season have come against Championship sides - Wolves and Bristol City in the League Cup.

Guardiola said: "They don't have the pressure when they play these kind of games. It's perfect for them. It's a party or maybe a good opportunity. We play a team in top form, making good results."

Guardiola refused to comment on his team's apparent pursuit of Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte, who could move for £60m before next week's transfer deadline. He said: "He's player for Athletic Bilbao. If it happens it, it happens. If it doesn't it doesn't."

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