Manchester City’s Spanish head coach Pep Guardiola reacts during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Basel and Manchester City at the Saint Jakob-Park Stadium in Basel on February 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Patrick HERTZOG
Pep Guardiola fears his preparations for Manchester City’s Premier League title defence have been affected by the World Cup.
Guardiola has travelled to the United States for games against Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool and Bayern Munich with a squad made up mostly of young players as many of his regular stars are enjoying an extended break following their exploits in Russia.
First team stars such as Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Ederson, David Silva, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker and John Stones have not made the journey to compete in the annual International Champions Cup pre-season tournament with most not expected back until a week before the start of the domestic season in England.
Guardiola has also suffered a setback in the transfer market this summer with Napoli’s Italian international midfielder Jorginho following manager Maurizio Sarri to Chelsea and although Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez has signed for 60 million pounds ($79 million), the Spaniard is poised to begin the season with almost the same squad.
It’s far from ideal but Guardiola won’t force any player back just for the sake of it.
“It is what it is,” said the Spaniard. “We spoke — they have to come back ready. If the days before they are tired and they don’t want to fight for the Community Shield, play at Arsenal, then stay on holidays. We cannot forget what we’ve done but we start again. If they are ready they’ll help us and if not we’ll wait for them. If they are not mentally and physically ready, they won’t come back.
“It’s been a pleasure working with academy players over the last few days.”
On Jorginho, Guardiola added: “I was disappointed (not to sign him). We tried, but players have to go where they go.
“It would have been a mistake for him if he came and he wanted to go to Chelsea with Maurizio Sarri. If they want to come, that’s great but if he wants to go to Chelsea, all the best for him.
“So it is important that English football has received an exceptional player and at the end if they want to come, it’s better they come.
“My advice is always go where they want to go.”
Former England goalkeeper Joe Hart, meanwhile, is poised for some surprise playing time in the US having returned to the club from a loan spell at West Ham United.
He last played for City in a Champions League qualifier against Steaua Bucharest in August 2016 having been axed by Guardiola following his arrival in Manchester two years ago.
“Joe is our player,” Guardiola said. “In his situation, he’s here and we will try to find a solution, which is best for him and if not he’ll stay here.
“He’s one of the most incredible professionals, I’ve ever met. He’s training like a young guy of 18 years old.
“I know it is not easy for him what happened in the last period, but he’s with us and tomorrow he’s going to play. He is with us.”