Pep Guardiola: Packed festive fixtures are a ‘disaster’ for players

Pep Guardiola believes English football’s demanding winter schedule is “a disaster” for its players after watching Manchester City lose Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne to injury.

City host Watford on Tuesday having dropped points for only the second time in the Premier League this season when they were held 0-0 at Crystal Palace on Sunday.

A knee injury could yet rule Jesus out for two months, and while City await developments regarding De Bruyne, they will also be tested by the effects of fatigue in what will be their 10th fixture in a month.

Sunday’s draw at Palace ended their run of 18 consecutive league victories which meant they fell one short of the record set by Bayern Munich, also under Guardiola, during 2013/14.

They remain first, 14 points ahead of closest challengers Chelsea and convincing favourites for the title, but Guardiola said: “If you tell me that technically, physically it’s good for the players: no, it’s a disaster.

“Ask the FA. It’s a tradition. I have to adapt. Last season we played at Anfield, we lost; two days later we played at home against Burnley, we played 65 mins 10 against 11. It is what it is. But the league is the league.

“They decide at Christmas times to do that, and of course we are going to adapt. Sometimes you have three days’ recovery, sometimes four, sometimes two, everybody is the same. Last season we had less recovery than this season, maybe next season we will have a little more.

Pep Guardiola: Packed festive fixtures are a ‘disaster’ for players PLZ Soccer
David Silva is not expected to play against Watford (Martin Rickett/PA)

“It is what it is. This kind of thing I can give my opinion, but do you believe I am going to (get the authorities to) change something? No way.”

Guardiola does not expect fellow Spaniard David Silva, absent for personal reasons, to be available for Tuesday’s fixture but his options could yet be strengthened if Fabian Delph, John Stones and Vincent Kompany return.

Discussing the challenge presented by their fixture list and their frustrations at Palace, Guardiola continued: “The character is always there, to make the numbers we have this season.

“The character we have to prove every day, once again and once again. The big clubs forget immediately when they win or they lose, and think immediately of the next one, and that is what we try to do.

“I have the same feeling now we’ve dropped two points as I had before. We’re in a good position. You tell the players ‘Don’t worry about winning the title or not winning the title; focus on the next game and what you have to do against Watford and try and win three more points’.

“If you think about far away we’re going to distract them from what we have to do today, and that would be a big mistake.

“That happened in the past, and with many, many other teams. We just focus on what we have to do, correct our mistakes (made at Selhurst Park), keep going, and at the end of the season we will see.”

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