Manchester City are upset that their Premier League game at Everton has been rearranged for a week on Wednesday – sandwiched between two big home clashes with Arsenal and Chelsea.
The clubs were due to meet at Goodison Park towards the end of next month, but City’s appearance in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, February 24 means it has been brought forward. City accept there will be fixture congestion in the second half of the season as they chase trophies on four fronts. But the champions fear that having to play three difficult league games in the space of eight days could hand Liverpool an advantage in the title race. Everton are also said to be less than satisfied with the new date.
Asked about the possibility of giving his players a rest as the fixture list builds up, manager Pep Guardiola said: ‘How can you have a day off when I prepare the schedule between Arsenal and Chelsea? I woke up today and we play Everton in between, so I cannot give them days off.’ Although Guardiola maintains that the prospect of a Quadruple is ‘fantasy’, he insists that his squad have to be positive about the extra workload.
‘Sometimes I tell the players it’s a privilege,’ he added. ‘If they believe it’s a handicap, they are making a big mistake. When you are 35 years old you can have long, long holidays, no problem. You will be retired and after that take one year for holidays. But at the moment, it’s a privilege. Take it. Enjoy it. Next one, win again. Whatever competition, it doesn’t matter. Friendly game, win again, play good, prepare well. That is the only way. Then you work for the next season.
‘This is the only way if you have four competitions. You have games every three days. No rest, mentally and physically. We need them. When one player plays 20 minutes, I want the best 20 minutes they can play. Or if they play five minutes, I want the best five minutes they can play. Because we want to get to the late stages, and maybe this will make the difference. Maybe in those five minutes they can help to win something, and that is what I need.
‘It’s important that in January we are there. In the big clubs, that is the big difference. Who are the best clubs in the last decade? Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona. Why? Because every season they win the league, every season they win the cups, every season they are there because they are the best. So Premier League until the end, Carabao Cup final, FA Cup today and win the game, prepare against Schalke. Hats off to my players.’
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