Guardiola embraces Man City’s March madness

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Football Soccer Britain - West Ham United v Manchester City - FA Cup Third Round - London Stadium - 6/1/17 Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola Reuters / Toby Melville Livepic

Pep Guardiola has defied convention among Premier League managers by welcoming the fixture congestion that faces Manchester City at the start of March.

The Premier League heavyweights will play five important games over the first 15 days of the month, dating back to last Wednesday’s FA Cup replay win over Huddersfield Town.

The sequence also features an FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough and the deciding leg of their Champions League last 16 tie with Monaco, as well as two Premier League fixtures.

But while many of Guardiola’s peers take every opportunity to complain about English football’s packed schedules, he said: “I love it. I prefer to be there than to be out of the competition.

“It is what it is about the scandal or the problem or how many games. I am not the right guy to discuss your rules and how you decide to play the games and the amount of games.

“When I was young and a player at Barcelona, I used to hear for a long time the managers and players complain about it, so I am not the right guy to analyse that.

“If it is the schedule, we go, we play. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we go, we play.”

Guardiola’s uncomplaining attitude comes despite a troubling lack of depth in his squad in the forward positions.

Promising newcomer Gabriel Jesus could be out for the season with a broken metatarsal and Kelechi Iheanacho does not appear to fit into the manager’s plans.

That leaves Sergio Aguero, whose phenomenal scoring record is allied to a history of injury problems, to shoulder the burden up front.

The Argentina international’s future has been the subject of intense speculation following Jesus’s arrival in January, but Guardiola remains relaxed both about Aguero’s durability and his long-term future.

– ‘I love him’ –

“I said after the game at Huddersfield that he is really, really fit, but of course we have other players like Kelechi,” said Guardiola ahead of Sunday’s home game with bottom club Sunderland in the Premier League.

“Sergio is more than ready in the last games to play. I love him, the way he played. He was involved. How he was angry, for example, with the decisions of the referee, how he reacted.

“How he made the transitions when he lost the ball, how he was involved, not just in scoring goals, in the way we play. So that’s why I said it was his best performance since I am here.

“He was shouting at Pablo (Zabaleta) when he was not happy with one pass. That desire. When that happens, he is in the game.

“When that happens, Sergio really is an unbelievable player. Not just in the box, in all terms. That’s why we were so happy and I know that he is so happy, despite what people say. I know he is so happy.”

Guardiola was equally upbeat about the long-term future of club captain Vincent Kompany, who is coming to the end of yet another season ravaged by injury.

Kompany is fit again after three games out with a leg injury, the latest in a litany of fitness problems, but his manager sees no reason why he cannot play a regular role again in the future.

“It’s our desire. That’s what we want, what he wants, definitely,” said Guardiola.

“But I am optimistic about that because it was in a training session, the last moment, that that happened, a little muscle thing.

“I’m optimistic. Why not? We have good doctors here, good physios. Today the medicine is much, much better.

“Why won’t he be able to come back regularly for a long, long time, a whole season? I’m pretty sure that will happen.”

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Story By AFP
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