London (AFP) – Pep Guardiola fears his Manchester City players are not ready for the gruelling demands of the Premier League restart.
Guardiola’s reigning champions will host Arsenal on Wednesday in the second game of the Premier League’s return to action following the coronavirus hiatus.
City play again on Monday when Burnley come to the Etihad Stadium and the pace does not drop until the planned end of the season in late July.
With Premier League chiefs determined to play the remaining 92 matches in less than six weeks and teams given only a short time to prepare, City manager Guardiola is concerned that his stars are not fully fit for such a hectic schedule.
“We are ready to play one game, but three days after another and four days after another, we are not ready,” Guardiola told reporters in a video press conference on Tuesday.
“We have to rotate and use all the players. You can play a game after three weeks on holiday but we spent two weeks on the sofa doing nothing much. That is why the players are not fully fit.
“The way we are right now, I think other clubs and teams as well, if you ask me how the team is, I don’t know.”
Guardiola said the game against Arsenal would show him what level of fitness his players had.
“What we are worried about over the three weeks is the lack of preparation, not like in Germany or Spain, where they worked five or six weeks,” he said. “We know it is not enough but it is what it is.”
– ‘Difficult time’ –
Since the Premier League went into lockdown in March, Guardiola’s mother Dolors Sala Carrio has died, aged 82, after contracting the coronavirus.
“All the people who lost family or friends, it’s a difficult time, but we have family to stay strong,” he said.
While the French and Dutch top-flight seasons were cancelled because of the pandemic, football has returned in Germany, Spain and Italy.
Now it is the Premier League’s turn to experience life during the virus, with matches played behind closed doors and twice-weekly testing for players among other new rules and regulations.
Guardiola did not sound especially enthusiastic about the Premier League’s decision to return, but he acknowledged the need to minimise the financial fallout from the pandemic.
“That is why we have to finish the season. We have to limit the economic damage to the clubs,” he said.
“It is what it is. Everyone suffered during this situation, personally and economically, and we have to adapt.
“The players are human. The health of the people is important but at the end, the Premier League, like in Spain, decided we have to play and we are going to play. ”
City, who resume 25 points behind leaders Liverpool, will welcome back Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta for the first time since he took charge of Arsenal in December.
“We are delighted he will come back, especially if he is happy there. We sent a message about an hour and a half ago,” Guardiola said.
“It was about the wine we are going to drink after the game if social distance allows.”
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