Thursday, November 25, 2021

Guardiola vows Man City still up for FA Cup

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Pep Guardiola has insisted Manchester City remain committed to lifting the FA Cup this season despite the prospect of a nightmare-run of fixtures.

The City manager has earmarked an 11-day spell in late February and early March as the defining period of the club’s season, when they will face four matches across three competitions.

That sequence will begin with the English League Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley on February 25, followed by a Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium four days later.

The following Sunday comes a home league match against Chelsea, before the second leg of City’s Champions League last-16 tie against Swiss champions Basel three days later.

Should they lose their FA Cup fourth-round tie at Cardiff on Sunday, City will have a clear 12 days next month to prepare for that testing run of games.

But a victory over the second-tier club in south Wales will guarantee City a fifth-round tie on the weekend of February 17, a week before the League Cup final.

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Guardiola has repeatedly refused to discuss the idea of City winning the season quadruple of Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup, something which has never yet been achieved in English football history.

His predecessor at City, Manuel Pellegrini, effectively had to give up on the FA Cup two seasons ago amid similar fixture congestion.

Pellegrini picked a side made up largely of fringe players and academy graduates for a fifth-round tie at Chelsea, played three days before a Champions League away match against Dynamo Kiev, and ended up losing 5-1.

Guardiola said he understood why Pellegrini made that decision –- with City going on to reach the Champions League semi-finals –- but added that the club are in a stronger position to deal with such tests now.

– ‘Have to adapt’ –
“That situation was completely different to now,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday. “The club tried to speak to the federation (England’s governing Football Association) to ask for the fixture to move, to have one more day to go to Kiev.

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“I understood what the club did. But here (in England), the television companies decide the fixtures and we’ll adjust,” the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager added.

“We are going to play the final at Wembley on February 25, and then play on Thursday against Arsenal in the Premier League. Sunday it’s Chelsea, then the Champions League after that.

“We’d prefer more time but we are in four competitions and we have to adapt. That’s not going to change.

“Sometimes you have one more day to prepare for a game, and sometimes you have one day fewer, because television decides. There are a lot of games. We have played a lot, and we have a lot to play.

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“But I prefer to be in the four competitions and we’ll see where we get to.

“It’s another final on Sunday. Every game is so important. Game by game, we will see where our level is.”

City remain hopeful of signing defender Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao for a club-record fee of £57 million ($81 million, 65 million euros), but Guardiola refused to give a public update on the transfer.

“No, I can’t. He’s player for Athletic Bilbao. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t.

“We will try to do the best for the squad, for now, for the next six months, and for the years to come.

“If we can going to do something interesting now, we’ll do it now. If not, then we’ll do it in the summer.

“If not in the summer, we’ll stick with the guys who’ve done amazingly.”

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