Pep Guardiola believes the fixture schedule has cost Manchester City a place in the FA Cup final for the second year in a row after he was forced to shuffle his pack against Liverpool at Wembley.
City’s hopes of a quadruple were ended by Chelsea at Wembley in the semi-final last season and now they’ve seen their chances of a treble go up in smoke in the capital, with Liverpool winning a thrilling contest 3-2. The fixture came at the end of a demanding run for the Blues, who have played two games against Liverpool and two against Atletico Madrid in the space of 12 days.
The schedule for their Champions League quarter-final sent them to Madrid on Wednesday night for a bruising second leg and Guardiola had to make seven changes at Wembley as his side began to run out of steam.
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It was the same story a year ago when they won in Dortmund on the Wednesday night only to face Chelsea at Wembley three days later. On that occasion, Guardiola made eight changes and the schedule has essentially meant something to give in the Blues season.
“It’s quite similar,” said the City boss. “We came from Dortmund, this year from Madrid, just three days with travel. Always how the energy you spend in the situation, and always I feel bad when during the season I don’t let the players play.
“When I make a selection always I am thinking about the players I don’t allow to play. When I have the chance to do it I will do it.
“I felt for the circumstances, I spoke with officials, with the doctors, with my staff and I said what is the best. I’m happy to give the opportunity for all the players who last period didn’t play much, because I know the players and I know where it comes from from Madrid. I couldn’t do anything else and I was satisfied to play players I trust a lot and they showed it in the second half.”
While City’s dreams of a treble came to an end, Liverpool remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple. They will contest the FA Cup final next month but remain a point behind the Blues in the Premier League.
City and Liverpool could also meet in the Champions League final in Paris if they get past Real Madrid and Villarreal in the last four respectively, but Guardiola insists the Wembley result doesn’t hand Jurgen Klopp’s side a psychological advantage for the run-in.
“Well, there is one chance we play at the end of the season, in case both teams reach the final of the Champions League. So I will see what happened,” he said.
“Now the psychology is we have seven games in the Premier League and we know exactly what we will have to do to try to win the Premier League. And now we need to rest, especially don’t see each other, people recover the injuries and after go game by game.
“We don’t have time. In four days we have another one, then after Watford, then Madrid, then another one. We need all the people and try everyone, knowing that happened today. If we win we continue, we reach the final, if we don’t lose the competition.”