Am­bi­tious Guardi­ola happy to skip hol­i­day

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FOOTBALL -

MANCH­ESTER: Pep Guardi­ola in­sisted Fri­day he will be happy if Manch­ester City have no time for a mid-sea­son break, be­cause it will mean they are still com­pet­ing for every tro­phy.

City’s ri­vals Manch­ester United took the op­por­tu­nity this week for a warm-weather train­ing trip to Dubai, al­low­ing boss Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer time to work on his squad’s fit­ness.

Guardi­ola did take his play­ers to Abu Dhabi last March, after their sur­prise FA Cup fifth round de­feat at Wi­gan left them with a free week.

The City boss will con­sider a sim­i­lar trip this time round if an early FA Cup exit leaves a gap in their match sched­ule. But he ac­knowl­edges that it may be dif­fi­cult to fit in such a break if City re­main in the hunt for all four ma­jor prizes.

“Hope­fully not, be­cause that means we con­tinue in the FA Cup and es­pe­cially in the Cham­pi­ons League. We will see. If not, then we will have this time in sum­mer time,” Guardi­ola told a news con­fer­ence.

“Last sea­son, it was quite sim­i­lar. But then after Wi­gan beat us in the FA Cup, we went there.”

City are still in con­tention for a quadru­ple of Premier League, Cham­pi­ons League, FA Cup and League Cup ti­tles, some­thing that has never been achieved in the Eng­lish game.

They took a sig­nif­i­cant step to­wards win­ning one of those tro­phies Wed­nes­day, thrash­ing third tier Bur­ton Al­bion 9-0 in the first leg of their League Cup semi­fi­nal.

It means that, bar­ring some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary in the sec­ond leg on Jan. 23, City will fea­ture in the fi­nal at Wem­b­ley on Feb. 24.

That cre­ates an­other bar­rier to a po­ten­tial win­ter va­ca­tion as their league fix­ture at Ever­ton, sched­uled for the pre­vi­ous day, would have to be re­ar­ranged.

“Did you see the sched­ule this morn­ing? I saw the sched­ule, and the Ever­ton game will be fixed for an­other week, so we don’t have many [spa­ces in the sched­ule for a warm-weather break], so we’ll see,” Guardi­ola said.

City, hav­ing taken a step to­wards a cup fi­nal, re­sume their at­tempt to catch lead­ers Liver­pool in the Premier League ti­tle race Mon­day, when they host Wolves.

Guardi­ola’s side, in sec­ond place, are four points be­hind Liver­pool after beat­ing them 2-1 at the Eti­had Sta­dium on Jan. 3.

It was Liver­pool’s first league de­feat of the sea­son, and may have in­creased the pres­sure on a team try­ing to be­come cham­pi­ons of Eng­land for the first time since 1990.

But Guardi­ola re­jected the sug­ges­tion that he is hap­pier chas­ing than lead­ing. “I pre­fer to be in Liver­pool’s po­si­tion,” he said.

Guardi­ola hopes to have Ser­gio Aguero back for the Wolves match, with the striker hav­ing missed City’s past two matches be­cause of ill­ness, while Vin­cent Kom­pany is close to re­cov­er­ing from a mus­cle prob­lem.

City have found it tough keep­ing pace with Liver­pool, de­spite col­lect­ing 50 points from 21 games, a bet­ter av­er­age this sea­son than Barcelona, who are top of La Liga.

Barcelona have col­lected 40 points from 18 games, an av­er­age of 2.22 per match, while City’s av­er­age of 2.38 is cur­rently only good enough for sec­ond place.

“The Premier League is in­cred­i­bly tough,” he said.

“You don’t re­al­ize how tough it is un­til you are here for the amount of games, the weather, the time needed for play­ers to re­cover.” –

Guardi­ola will only con­sider a team trip abroad if they exit the FA Cup early and have space in their sched­ule.

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