Pep wary of be­ing thrown to the Wolves

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT -

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

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