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

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport Football - By James Ducker, John Percy and Chris Bas­combe

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

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