Sunday, October 17, 2021

City players unfazed by fixture pile-up

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Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (centre R) is mobbed by teammates after scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester City at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on November 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Lindsey PARNABY

Manchester City’s players do not appear to share manager Pep Guardiola’s concern about a congested fixture list as they prepare to host Burnley in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

Guardiola is worried that City have more matches than they can cope with as they compete for success in four competitions.

His side played nine matches during December and face at least seven during January — if they reach the finals of the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup, they will have played a minimum of 63 games by the end of the season.

Guardiola said after Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Watford, a result that maintained City’s 15-point lead at the top of the Premier League, that English football’s busy Christmas and New Year schedule was “going to kill the players”.

Yet midfielder Fernandinho and goalkeeper Ederson have both said they are happy to be playing so many games, and would gladly face Burnley this weekend, even though their manager is considering changes to keep senior players fresh.

“I spent New Year’s Day at home with my child and my wife and I was fresh,” said Fernandinho. “We will see what Pep is going to do but, for sure, every player is going to be ready if he needs them to play.

“We are here, we are professional, and I don’t like to rest.”

Ederson is likely to be replaced by Claudio Bravo, who has featured in all of City’s League Cup ties this season, but the Brazil goalkeeper indicated that he is ready to play too.

“All the players like to play games, so it is great we have so many matches,” he said. “Also, the team are playing really well.

“We had an amazing month in December. We are playing great football and we are getting good results so we are really happy.”

City have not lost a domestic game since they were knocked out of last season’s FA Cup by Arsenal at the semi-final stage in April.

They did, though, find it tough against Burnley in the Premier League fixture at the Etihad Stadium in October, needing two quick goals from Nicolas Otamendi and Leroy Sane in the final 20 minutes to ensure a flattering 3-0 victory.

Jesus injury
City remain without striker Gabriel Jesus, who will be absent until February with medial knee ligament damage suffered during the 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace on Sunday, while right-back Kyle Walker is a doubt after limping off against Watford with a groin problem.

Midfielder David Silva has missed several recent matches to be with his young son Mateo, who is seriously ill after being born prematurely.

Burnley manager Sean Dyche has indicated that he will rest several players after seeing their form slip over Christmas and New Year.

Leading scorer Chris Wood and left-back Stephen Ward will be assessed to see if they are over the knee injuries that have kept them out of recent fixtures.

Dyche’s side are without a win in five Premier League matches, although they remain seventh in the table.

Burnley fell victim to arguably the greatest upset of last season’s FA Cup, losing at home to Lincoln City, then a non-league club, in the fifth round in February.

“We have to rotate,” Dyche said. “We have no choice. The players have played two games in three days, the bulk of them.

“They are, as much as I work them hard and their will to work hard, humans and I don’t forget that.”

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