Pep Guardiola preferred to look on the positive side of his Manchester City team’s punishing schedule – but still made his point about the TV broadcasters not taking enough account of teams’ schedules. The Blues boss OK’d a decision to fly straight to London – and train at Millwall’s The Den ground – after the midweek Champions League draw with Atletico Madrid.
But City still head into Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final with Liverpool at a distinct disadvantage, having had just three days since a tough, tight game against Atletico Madrid, with travel on top. His team faced a Liverpool side who had a home game against much easier opponents in Benfica and were able to rest seven key players after establishing a 3-1 lead from the away leg.
Guardiola was offered the chance to get excuses in early but preferred to see the fact that City are in the FA Cup semi-final, as well as the last four of the Champions League and being top of the Premier League, as a major plus rather than a grueling ask. He said: “It happens for one reason – cos we’re fighting for all the titles – that’s good news, I’m saying that with a big smile, it’s not that I am grumpy.
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“I’m so happy to live that. It’s not an ideal situation but where in this world is an ideal situation – look what happens two, three hours away from here (with the war in Ukraine). So, good massage, good food, I say to my players sleep a lot, take a nap, sleep, sleep, a lot of hours, as much hours as possible, then good food, today was a good regeneration, and tomorrow at 3.30 we will be there.
“It is what it is. It looks like if I give an argument, I am trying to look for or trying to find some excuse. I always prefer nice situations, more days and to arrive more fresh not just with 14 or 15 players that we have now but it is what it is.” Having stressed the positive, he reiterated the fact that the broadcasters listen to the managers – Jurgen Klopp has also been angry about this matter – but do nothing to help.
Even switching the City-Liverpool game to Sunday, when both had played on Wednesday in Europe, might have been a start: “I said many times about the schedule,” said Guardiola. “We cannot argue with the guys who make the decisions but it makes no sense because nothing is going to change. We are incredibly grateful to be here in the semi-final of the FA Cup. We are going to try to perform well. It’s not easy against Liverpool. We will try to do our game.”
But Guardiola stressed how difficult it is for the players to continually raise themselves mentally, as well as recover physically when they are playing two games a week, especially when it is against top-level opponents like Liverpool and Atletico Madrid.
Asked how hard it is for players to deal with that, he said: “A lot. That is why I would love all the managers when they arrive in these stages, the people consider regeneration for the players to be better but it’s a battle that is lost for a long time – that is why we can expect or suggest or dream to be in better conditions but it is not going to happen because the broadcasters command absolutely when we are going to play and we have to adapt.
“And this is what we are going to do tomorrow, it’s what we did in the past and it’s what we are going to do in the future. That’s why in the meetings that we have with the managers, or whatever, it’s no sense, so that is why it is what it is.
“That is why we have this situation, that is why we traveled here direct from Madrid. If we went to Manchester we would have to travel here on the bus and we want to have the legs as fresh as possible with the incredible confidence I have.
“That is why I admire a lot of these players, for five or six seasons. We have fought every season like this and we go through. And we are going to perform well.
“I said to the players I don’t want any excuses, I don’t want to find a situation in which it could be better. It’s what it is and for that we have to go there tomorrow at Wembley and do our game.”
City held their press conference at The Den in south London, and Guardiola explained the thinking behind it: “We thought if we went to Manchester and trained there and afterwards come back today, it’s exhausting to travel from Manchester to London and have 45 minutes or an hour to the hotel and one hour to go to the airport.”
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