Guardiola ‘thanks’ Premier League for Christmas schedule

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says he has written to the Premier League to ‘thank’ them for their Christmas schedule.

The champions are one of five clubs who face two games in less than 48 hours this week.

City travel to Wolves for a 7.45pm kick-off on Friday and then host Sheffield United at 6pm on Sunday.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City play twice in under 48 hours over Christmas (Martin Rickett/PA)

Guardiola has complained before about the close proximity of the two fixtures, which were confirmed when TV schedules were announced in October, and has since made representations to the competition’s organisers.

Speaking sarcastically, Guardiola said: “I wrote a letter to the Premier League to say thank you and we are going to the fridge after Wolves to get ready for Sheffield United.

“We are training on the 23rd and 24th. The night of 24th is off, the morning of 25th off. Then 26th training and 27th Nuno’s (Espirito Santo) team.”

Guardiola wants his players to have greater recovery time between matches.

One such star he would undoubtedly wish to protect is Kevin De Bruyne, who was outstanding in City’s 3-1 defeat of Leicester on Saturday.

De Bruyne, who also shone in last week’s win at Arsenal, admits it will be tough to maintain the momentum over the festive period.

The Belgian said: “The first game is in five or six days, so that’s OK, but the other one – I don’t know what to do. We’ll see how everybody feels after 48 hours.

“Normally it would be impossible to play but it’s the schedule and we just have to find a way to manage, but we’ll see what happens.

“Hopefully everybody feels all right for these two games but obviously we’re going to have to change a few players.”

City’s win on Saturday moved them back within a point of second-placed Leicester but they still trail runaway leaders Liverpool by 11 points and have played a game more.

Guardiola says he does not seriously think the gap can be closed.

He said: “When a team has 16 victories from 17 it’s unrealistic to think we are going to chase them.

Well-deserved win! Thanks for the amazing support 💙 pic.twitter.com/qx9TXHdxAM

— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) December 21, 2019

“We have to try to win our games, secure Champions League for next season and then you never know, no?

“If they drop a couple of games, and we win and win… I don’t know. When one team loses one game in the last 53 or 54 I’m not optimistic that they are going to lose four or five in 10 or 11 games because they are incredibly strong.”

If City are to catch Liverpool they would welcome a favour from Leicester, who host the Reds on Boxing Day.

It is a challenge former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is relishing.

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers faces former club Liverpool on Boxing Day
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers faces former club Liverpool on Boxing Day (Mike Egerton/PA)

Rodgers said: “It’s always disappointing to lose a game but we’ll get them right and we look forward to being at home.

“That’ll be us at the halfway point against Liverpool so we’ll be firing and ready to go to get a good performance and a good result.

“It’ll be a different game. I know they’re a top-class team, a different style, but we have to get ready for that.”

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