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Tuesday 19 November 2019

Pep relishes a fully-fit squad as City chase quad

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola has almost a fully-fit squad as Manchester City resume their quadruple quest at Fulham today.

The Premier League champions had fitness doubts over a number of players heading into the recent international break.

But Kevin De Bruyne, Benjamin Mendy, Fernandinho and Vincent Kompany are all fit after spells on the sidelines and Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones have overcome knocks.

That puts them in a strong position heading into an intense spell with fixtures in three competitions in the coming weeks. City boss Guardiola said: "Everybody came back fit and, except Fabian Delph, the others are fit and we have 21-22 players. That's good.

"They have to compete with each other to take a place in their position.

"We play now two games in the Premier League, then the FA Cup, then Champions League. We know what we have to do to fight until the end."

City, who have already won the Carabao Cup this season, can reclaim Premier League top spot - for a day at least -with victory at Craven Cottage today. Eight games then follow in April including an FA Cup semi-final against Brighton and a two-legged Champions League quarter-final clash with Tottenham.

They have a minimum of 11 games remaining in what could be an historic campaign and, although Guardiola has often played down quadruple talk, he is aware of the challenge ahead.

He said: "We are going to play 11 games, definitely. To play 12, maybe 14, maybe 15, we have to deserve it. We have eight left in the Premier League and game by game we will see what happens."

Fulham have had a horror season and look to be heading back to the Championship after just one year.

The Cottagers, now under the charge of a third manager this season in Scott Parker, are 19th and 13 points off safety after losing their last seven games.

But Guardiola said: "I saw the last three games and against tough opponents they were close. They didn't take points but they played well.

"Aleksandar Mitrovic in the box is so dangerous and they have good quality players, Ryan Babel is so fast. I don't see the table, I see how they do. They are not getting results but they are doing well."

Guardiola, meanwhile, feels racism is not just a problem for football and is "getting worse" across European society.

Asked if managers should have the right to take players off the pitch under such circumstances, Guardiola added: "We could do that. Football is a strong weapon to defend the principles of humanity.

"When the club or players decide to do it, for myself we are going to follow them.

"The situation changes when you do something, if not the situation is always the same.

"When people like Raheem Sterling express what they express it's good for society's future."

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