BPL

Keeping City players fresh ahead of taxing run must be foremost for Guardiola

City are still alive in three competitions and the league title race with Liverpool is bound to go down to the wire for Guardiola

This Tuesday is going to be an unusual one for Manchester City players, for they will not be preparing for a game, considering they have been playing non-stop for three months now. This is just a third free midweek since the end of November for the Sky Blues, with the 1-0 win at Bournemouth being their 27th game in 99 days!

This relentless slog for Pep Guardiola & Co has ensured that one trophy has been pocketed, and it will take a superhuman effort, yet one to be commended and talked up in history, to end the season by adding either of the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup trophies, even if it leaves the players too exhausted to party! And the players would do well to make the most of this free week, as if they are alive in all tournaments come May, then City won’t have another break — aside from the upcoming international week — between now and the end of the Premier League season on May 12.

The home league game with Cardiff in a month could clash with the FA Cup semifinals, so only option may be for City to bring the game with the Bluebirds forward if they do see off Swansea in the quarterfinals. Guardiola did hand his players a couple of days off this week, but felt it was “too much” to think of giving his players three or four days off. The former Barcelona coach will hate more injuries striking his players as a result of the excessive work. Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho are out until at least March end, with Benjamin Mendy’s fitness remaining mystery, so the the 48-year-old must have been livid to see Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones limp out at Bournemouth.

De Bruyne’s has had an injury-plagued season anyways, and the hamstring problem will not have been a good sight, while the withdrawal of Stones was more of a precaution as he continues to struggle with a groin problem. Guardiola did not mince words when discussing De Bruyne’s latest injury, identifying the hectic schedule as the reason. Which is not good, for if City continue to fight on three fronts until the end of the season, it will become more punishing, which is why this next week will be vital in allowing muscles the chance to rest and recover.

“Kevin is his hamstring,” said Guardiola. “It’s normal. We played 25 games in 93 days I think. It means every three days and a little bit more we play one game so it’s a physiological issue. We demand these guys play that way every three days when the body is not always recovered. Sometimes,  the muscles say ‘hello, it’s enough’.”

The pressing issue for Guardiola has to be the fitness of his overworked players and how their muscles cope between now and season end.

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