Pep Guardiola believes the busy festive schedule is going to “kill” players, with Manchester City’s manager pointing to the two-day gap between his side’s New Year’s Eve draw at Crystal Palace and the 3-1 win against Watford at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
Raheem Sterling’s opener after 38 seconds was followed by a Christian Kabasele own goal and a Sergio Agüero strike before Andre Gray’s late consolation for Watford.
However, Kyle Walker ended the match clutching his right thigh and Guardiola cited the injury as evidence of the demands of this time of the season.
“He might have a little problem – what everyone saw in the last weeks is how many injuries the players have,” Guardiola said. “We are going to kill them. The bosses have to reflect. It’s not normal to play 31st and two days later.
“I know the show must go on but that is not normal, they have to control it. They don’t protect the players, they are the people we come to watch – not the managers or the press conferences. Here in England, you don’t protect the players, you have to look for the quality, not the quantity.
“Of course space them [the matches] out. I’m not saying change Boxing Day [games]. But you cannot play at 12 at Selhurst Park but are thinking about the game two days later. It’s not basketball or tennis – the players need recovery. Just see how many muscular injuries there are. We have a lot of people here [at City] to take care of them, but the schedule does not protect the player. I think the schedule will always happen because of the tradition but think about the players – they are artists.”
David Silva returned after two games out owing to personal issues. Guardiola said he may miss more matches. “We are very happy David is back, we don’t know how long but he made another exhibition – he’s essential, he showed how important he is for us. He’s free to stay or leave, it depends. He wants to stay because he enjoys it but family is the most important thing in life. It doesn’t matter if we drop a lot of points, I’d never push him. Some days he will be here, some he will be out, it depends how his family is.”
Of Gabriel Jesus, who has a knee injury, Guardiola said: “Gabriel will be out four to six weeks, maybe a bit longer.”
Agüero again stated his future is in City’s hands. “I have until 2020, I think – the truth is I hope to see out my contract and I’ll try to do my best from here until the end of the season, and after that, we will see what happens,” he said.
“Obviously my plan is not to change clubs. As always, as I said before, the club has the last word, they’re the only ones who decide because obviously, the club is the one who makes the decisions, they are the ones who say you have to go or have to stay, so I’ll respect whatever they tell me. Everything’s fine [between Pep and I].”