Pep wary of being thrown to the Wolves
MANCHESTER: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says that post-World Cup fatigue and injuries to key players, rather than complacency, could disrupt the club’s Premier League title defence.
Despite winning the first two games of the league season, Guardiola admitted he was concerned about the lack of pre-season preparation for a number of players involved at the World Cup in the summer.
“Complacency is not the problem. The problem is that now – while we are not far away – we are still not fit,” the Spaniard told reporters ahead of today’s league game away to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Guardiola said players normally need a day or two to recover fully after a game, but they are not yet at that level, requiring more time because of a lack of pre-season work.
City are already without midfielder Kevin de Bruyne for up to three months after he sustained a knee injury in training last week, while back-up goalkeeper Claudio Bravo also faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after rupturing his Achilles tendon.
“Some players need much more time to win power, strength. The players then complain about muscular problems – that’s why Claudio got out, and Kevin as well,” he added.
City recalled Aro Muric from his loan spell with NAC Breda this week and the 19-year-old could be on the bench at Molineux.
“I have said before, Aro has amazing potential as a goalkeeper,” Guardiola said.
“The second team wasn’t a proper competition for him last year; that’s why he went to Holland to play the big teams. He came back because maybe he’ll play in the other competitions. We trust Aro, no doubts about that.”
Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves, who won the Championship last season, are chasing their first win on their return to the top flight.
The teams finished goalless after extra-time in the League Cup last October, with City emerging victorious on penalties.
“They destroyed the championship last season, the way they played attractive football,” Guardiola said of Wolves.
“We knew it from the beginning how tough it would be in the Carabao Cup when (we played them) and it went to penalties. It’s another game, but we need to be consistent, humble and respect the opponent and try to make a good game.”
Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur have lost their last four league visits to Old Trafford but manager Mauricio Pochettino sees no reason why they cannot overcome Manchester United on Monday after ending a 28-year winless run at Chelsea last season.
Spurs came back from a goal down to record an impressive 3-1 win at London rivals Chelsea in April, and Pochettino wants his players to use that experience against United.
“At Chelsea last season was a good example,” Pochettino told reporters.
“After 27/8 years we won a game. Why not? Always you need to believe and of course I believe more than ever that we can win.
“We are working hard. We are trying to be consistent and of course after four years many things can improve and one thing we need to improve is winning against some clubs away from home, like Manchester United.”
After a close-season underlined by manager José Mourinho’s discontent over their lack of transfer activity, United suffered a 3-2 defeat by Brighton and Hove Albion last weekend.
Another loss to Spurs could further increase the scrutiny on the Portuguese but Pochettino said every manager faces the same pressure every weekend.
“You don’t believe I’m not in the same position? We feel the pressure every week,” Pochettino added.
“Of course the circumstances are different over the year but every game you play you’re under pressure and if you lose or don’t perform as you expect the pressure touches you.”
If Spurs win at Old Trafford they will have won their first three league games for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign under Harry Redknapp. – Reuters