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Pep Guardiola has hit out at the scheduling of the March international break and his side’s FA Cup semi-final, but is resigned to fighting a losing battle.

Kyle Walker and John Stones picked up injuries on England duty which have ruled them out of Sunday’s vital clash with title rivals Arsenal and potentially further Premier League games against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

The first leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Real Madrid will be City’s fourth game in 10 days and Guardiola is also exasperated at being forced to play an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea just three days after the second leg at the Etihad Stadium.

John Stones
England’s John Stones receives treatment for an injury during the international friendly against Belgium at Wembley (Mike Egerton/PA)

Asked if the timing of the March international break needed rethinking, Guardiola said: “Sure, but they will not rethink. UEFA has its own business, the broadcasters have their own business.

“We play Wednesday against Madrid second leg here…Coventry, Manchester United, Chelsea, they are on holidays one week. Why are we playing Saturday? Why don’t they give us one more day?

“Coventry don’t play Champions League, Chelsea don’t play Champions League or Europa League, United don’t do it. The broadcasters pay a lot of money so we play Saturday.

“We will go to London to play Chelsea, Chelsea will not come here. We will travel five hours. We play quarter-finals [of the Champions League] many times the last years, Wednesday second leg and every time play Saturday. All the time.

“We’re lucky we’re playing at home [this time] but we’ve played in Dortmund, arrive Thursday afternoon here, on Friday take a train or plane to London and play Saturday against Liverpool or Chelsea and all the incredible teams. We are exhausted.

“We play Aston Villa at 8.15 [on Wednesday], we play 12.30 on Saturday [at Crystal Palace] and go to Madrid on Tuesday. Madrid have nine days to prepare for the game. They play this weekend and not again until our game.

“You ask me about the calendar, I give my opinion. Forget about it [changes happening]. UEFA and FIFA have their own business. Broadcasters have their own business but I have mine and I defend my club.

“My club is really tough; [playing every] three days, three days, three days. The other clubs don’t have that situation. The calendar has always been like that with us, we have less days to recover and we did it.”

Guardiola also noted that Paris St Germain do not have a Ligue 1 game between the two legs of their Champions League quarter-final with Barcelona and was asked why other countries appear to provide such assistance for their clubs.

“I don’t know and I’m not even going to ask because they will have their own business,” he added.

“I would like to know the answer why [we play] all the time on Saturday and not Sunday because one day is a lot of difference at this stage with the injured players, the accumulation of games and games.

“It’s fortunate because we are in contention [in many competitions] but when I see Saturday I say why? I would love to know it but I don’t. All the time it’s the same and it’s not going to change.”

City are seeking an unprecedented fourth straight Premier League title and Guardiola admits Sunday’s game is vital as his side trail Arsenal and Liverpool by a single point with 10 games remaining.

“To win the Premier League you have to win almost all games I would say,” Guardiola said. “I don’t think Arsenal and Liverpool are going to drop much points.

“The experience Liverpool have in this situation, the quality of Arsenal winning I don’t know how many games in a row, scoring lots of goals…. That’s why tomorrow is the final, absolutely. We play a final.”