Belfast Telegraph

Pep Guardiola 'satisfied' to see Manchester City among title contenders

Pep Guardiola praised his Manchester City side for balancing their domestic and Champions League ambitions but hinted that unhelpful scheduling was costing English teams in Europe.

City drew a key group match in Borussia Monchengladbach 1-1 on Wednesday evening and were straight back in action at Burnley in the early game on Saturday at Turf Moor.

Champions League sides in other European countries are often offered more sympathetic timings either side of continental clashes but the demands of television mean that is not the case in the Premier League.

Speaking after a narrow 2-1 win over the Clarets, Guardiola refused to moan but dropped a heavy suggestion that the fixture list was a factor in the diminishing returns at Champions League level.

"What happened to English teams in the last decade is your (England's) problem, you have to analyse, not me," he said.

"We are not the only ones, it happens to all teams. I'm not a guy who complains so much, believe me.

"It's happened...what can I do? Call the federation? No. They are going to change? No.

"Okay, they put 12.30 so we have to be here, play at 12.30 and if you lose congratulations Burnley and keep going.

"They (Burnley) are here one week, working, planning mentally for this game. You have hours, after the (midweek) game you cannot speak about Burnley, you have to rest their minds."

Guardiola now has the rare luxury of a full week to prepare for next Saturday's home game against league leaders Chelsea.

With no European commitments the Blues and third-placed Liverpool have that kind of build-up time on a regular basis, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Guardiola.

" That's why I'm so satisfied. We'll have played eight more games - terrible games - in the Champions League than Chelsea and Liverpool and we are there.

"That's why the first part of the season is so satisfying.

"Playing seven, eight more games in the Champions League after going to Stoke and to West Brom, and to still be with Liverpool and Chelsea when they don't play in Europe is good for us."

Yaya Toure has not always been on the same page as Guardiola since the latter arrived in the summer but, after the second game of his unexpected first-team comeback, the midfielder picked up a similar theme.

"This Chelsea side play one time a week, it is easier to prepare well, to recover well, to take full advantage of recovery," he said.

"This week we played Wednesday and after that straight away on Saturday. Sometimes it is tough to be focused again, it is tough on us in these kind of games. You have to be mentally and physically prepared to compete."

Toure spent the first part of the season out in the cold and is not even registered for Europe but now appears to have a role to play in the league campaign.

With no shortage of candidates to take Leicester's crown, the Ivorian does not expect the competition to ease off any time soon.

Asked if Chelsea were now his side's chief title rivals, he said: "To be honest it's Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham...Manchester United. The league this year is unpredictable and it's going to be decided in the last two or three months this year."


From Belfast Telegraph