Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has sounded a warning that his team will not be ready for the intensity of playing games so frequently when the Premier League gets underway this evening. City face Arsenal in the second game of Project Restart, following Aston Villa vs Sheffield United.
And they follow tonight up with a clash against Burnley on Monday and then face Chelsea on Thursday, Newcastle on Sunday in the FA Cup and then Liverpool the following Thursday.
It makes for tight reading and Guardiola’s squad will be stretched to its limits.
Those limits, though, are pretty superior to most of their rivals.
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Guardiola’s squad is bristling with talent and is also ready to welcome Leroy Sane back after his injury in August in the Community Shield.
So he will get little sympathy when he claims his players won’t be ready to his the ground running after a 100 day absence of competitive football.
He said: “We are going to do the best for them but you know, in the other leagues, how the players suffer to arrive at the last minute and how difficult it is to recover and play another game.
“With the lack of recovery, you have to play another game with a lack of physical training or condition.
“They had six weeks to prepare for the restart in Germany, five in Spain, almost double what we had.
“We have the results of the GPS information about the players from every session and the feeling, the smell, about how they feel.
“But I learned from watching football at home that it was a bit weird — playing without the supporters is strange.
“I learned that one team can play incredibly well the first day but the second day less. They go down in terms of rhythm and everything.
“I think there will be ups and downs, during games and especially two or three games in a row.
“I understand we have to do it and the Premier League have incredible protocols.
“Always you had the feeling that the economic damage for all the clubs was huge and you have to do this to reduce that economic damage.
“But we are human beings and want to be healthy.
“No one wants to die because there is contamination, because you don’t do what you have to do.
“The social distancing, masks, hand sanitiser, we still have to do because the virus has not disappeared. We have to be alert.
“But we were in contact with the Government and scientists.
“If they allow us to do it, it is because we can do it. And if we can do it, of course we are going to do it.”
City’s last match was the 2-0 defeat in the Manchester derby, and their game with Arsenal tonight was the first match postponed by the coronavirus outbreak after Mikel Arteta tested positive.
Guardiola has had plenty of time to mull over that defeat and will not take kindly to a repeat performance.
And despite the talk about recovery and lack of ice baths, his players should be raring to go tonight.
Chances are there will be some muscle injuries early on in these first few games, but City are well placed to cover the cracks should they need to.
And it could be that Guardiola was looking to lure his counter part, his former assistant manager Arteta, into a sense of security.
Arteta’s time at Arsenal while impressive has still not featured very many wins. Just one in his first seven – although he followed that up with three in his last three against Newcastle, Everton and West Ham.
Arsenal are ninth with 10 games to play and face a huge battle to get into the European spots.
And Guardiola will be keen to maintain his position ahead of one of the men who could eventually replace him at the Etihad.
In front of an empty stadium, but a captivated TV audience, Guardiola will surely be keen to pull a tactical trick or two after so long off.
We know all about his intensity, documented on Amazon Prime, and his desperation to keep things fresh. And tonight is the perfect opportunity to show his creativity once more.
While all the talk has been about Jurgen Klopp during the break, as he closes in on the Premier League title, Guardiola can take centre stage tonight as the league restarts.
And he’ll want to do it with a win as he takes on one of his disciples.
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Published at Wed, 17 Jun 2020 14:54:00 +0000