Guardiola: Fixture pile-up will put my players at serious risk
City manager’s injury fear for festive schedule Nuno slams ‘dangerous’ workload for Wolves
Pep Guardiola says he will be forced to put his Manchester City squad in cold storage over Christmas in the hope of avoiding injuries after accusing the Premier League and television broadcasters of showing scant regard for the welfare of players.
City are seething over the scheduling of their festive fixtures, which will give them less than 48 hours to prepare for the game at home to Sheffield United following a trip to Wolves on Dec 27. Omar Berrada, City’s chief operating officer, also criticised the Premier League this week for threatening the “sporting integrity” of the competition amid fears the fixture list plays into the hands of title rivals Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s side will have longer to prepare between games than City and will also play a Wolves side on Dec 29 who are faced with a quicker turnaround following their game against the champions.
Now Guardiola has waded into the debate and is especially concerned the hectic Christmas programme will increase the risk of injury among his players, who will be instructed to take ice baths postwolves. “Since I came here, every season it’s happened the same, the broadcasters are the bosses in this situation,” he said ahead of today’s trip to Crystal Palace.
“We don’t protect the players. The system does not protect the players. It’s too much, honestly it’s too much. Maybe the broadcasters are fans for some clubs.”
Guardiola insisted he was only joking on his final point and was not implying bias among the broadcasters, but he is worried about the toll two games in quick succession will take on his players. Asked what he could do with them in such a short space of time to reduce the risks, the City manager said: “Players to the fridge. I’m not joking. Go home, open the fridge, and get inside for 48 hours. See you at the Etihad Stadium. When I open the fridge to make an omelette, maybe I can talk with my players. But apart from that, no way [is there time to prepare].
“I’m concerned for the players. It’s a business. The people do not care about the players. We’ve solved it in the past and we’ll solve in the future. It’s the only way. Don’t complain or call my chairman asking, ‘What’s happened?’ or go to the big bosses.
“If we can’t solve anything then we cannot win four titles in one season. This year we will try with the problems that we have in several positions. We accept it. We’ll be stronger.
“The broadcasters pay a lot of money. They don’t look at these players or this club. [They ask]: ‘What is best for my money now, to pay back?’” Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo described the task of facing City and Liverpool in under 45 hours as “absurd” and “dangerous.” Club officials are understood to have expressed their concerns to the Premier League and asked for the scheduling to be reconsidered, but were left frustrated. “It is absurd and ridiculous,” he said. “The players have to compete, but it is tough, dangerous . Forty-five hours – it is impossible to play another game.” Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is available again after injury and Guardiola could also bring back defenders John Stones and Benjamin Mendy against Palace. Klopp, meanwhile, poured scorn on the suggestion that Liverpool had been given an unfair advantage. “We have a game more in December than City. How can we have an advantage?” he said.
Money talks: Pep Guardiola says TV firms show scant regard for player welfare