‘They are in the fridge for two days’: Pep Guardiola orders his players to rest

Pep Guardiola has said Manchester City’s players are in the “fridge for two days” as they attempt to recover from an exhausting 72 hoursbefore focusing on claiming a fourth consecutive Premier League title and a historic double-double.

City’s 1-0 FA Cup semi-final win over Chelsea on Saturday at Wembley took them to a second successive final and keeps them on course to be the first English club to win two doubles in a row. Yet it came three days after playing 120 minutes and losing a penalty shootout in the Champions League quarter-final to Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola was unhappy that City’s Cup semi-final was staged on Saturday rather than Sunday. City were the only side of the four semi-finalists who played in midweek. They sit third in the league on 71 points, two behind Arsenal and Liverpool, having played a game less. The manager was asked about the players’ preparation for their next game, Thursday’s trip to Brighton.

Guardiola said: “They are in the fridge for two days. Don’t see each other, stay at home with your families. Try to rest, nothing special. Two days to prepare for Brighton and [Nottingham] Forest [on Sunday]. One game at a time.”

The Catalan was asked if his unhappiness at the Cup schedule might cause him to boycott speaking to the BBC. He offered a humorous reply. “No, it’s Gary Lineker – come on,” Guardiola said. “[But] after, if they ask for a photoshoot for the broadcasters, [say]: ‘Come on, do a photoshoot.’ I’ll say: ‘No I’m busy, I don’t have time.’ It’s a joke for the future.

“I always attend the media because I represent this institution. I’ve always done it and will always do it but if they ask for extra then I don’t have time. If you put me in a game every three days then the managers have a lot to do.”

Bernardo Silva’s 79th-minute strike beat Chelsea and followed his heartbreak of missing a penalty in the shootout against Madrid, his kick drawing criticism for being aimed straight down the middle where Andriy Lunin saved it. Guardiola praised the Portuguese’s spirit.

“Always life gives you a second chance and he took it,” the 53-year-old said. “I was thinking of changing [him] and putting Oscar [Bobb] on the right. But after the goal, Bernardo is so intelligent to keep the ball, so intuitive – in that moment I could not change him.

“After 20-25 minutes [of the match] he was so tired but Bernardo has this special intelligence. To have Bernardo on the pitch, I feel more safe, more comfortable. I’m so happy, he deserves the best. They weren’t easy days for him.”

Silva himself has revealed his FA Cup semi-final winner came after he suffered sleepless nights caused by his penalty miss in Wednesday’s Champions League shootout defeat to Real Madrid.

Silva aimed City’s second penalty straight down the middle but Lunin saved it, and the holders went on to lose the shootout 4-3. The midfielder was asked how difficult this was.

He said: “Emotionally, it’s our job, it’s football. Yeah, it was tough. First night I didn’t sleep much, the second night you sleep a bit better. The third night you sleep almost the whole night, but it is what it is. It’s football, it’s our profession, and we have to deal with those emotions.”

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Silva received criticism for his decision to strike his penalty down the centre of the goal. “I had two options,” he said. “I had in my mind one of the sides, I’m not going to tell you which, and the middle. I was waiting. I wanted to [take] the second or the third penalty to see the reaction from the keeper in the first or the first two penalties. And he moved early [for the first], that’s why I thought the middle was good because in moments of pressure the keepers 99% of the times they move. But he chose not to move and fair play to him – well done. And yeah, it is what it is.”

The 29-year-old stated that the delay he experienced in having to wait to take his kick was not a factor. “For me no, because my decision was made, I was going to shoot the penalty in the middle,” he said. Silva was grateful for the reaction of the team. “It’s like a family, like brothers, the way we support each other when someone misses. It’s unbelievable and the guys were unbelievable with me this week,” he said.

The midfielder was less content at City having to play 72 hours after the Madrid game, echoing the complaints of Guardiola. He said: “It looks like they [the authorities] don’t care because we’ve said it many times. It’s not about wanting to be favourites, it’s about health. I played 90 minutes. Me, Kevin [De Bruyne], Phil [Foden]. I wasn’t fine at all. I wasn’t fine. I’ll be honest, I was feeling my left hamstring and my right calf. This is not fair for Man City, for us. We represent England in these European competitions and it’s important for England, for this country.”

It is understood that the FA’s stance is that the needs of the clubs, local authorities, police and broadcasters have to be balanced and ties are scheduled collaboratively. Chelsea also have a rearranged game against Arsenal on Tuesday.


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