Hectic Premier League schedule will 'kill' the players, warns Pep Guardiola
Catalan urges rethink over fixture pile up after seeing his Manchester City side beat Watford 3-1 two days after playing Crystal Palace, their fourth fixture in 11 days over Christmas and New Year
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has hit out at the amount of games played in the Premier League over the festive period, saying the schedule is going to "kill" the players.
City were one of the teams to play four games in 11 days across Christmas and the new year, with the last two matches — away to Crystal Palace and at home to Watford — coming just two days apart.
"What I saw, what everybody sees, in the last weeks is how many injuries the players have," Guardiola said. "We are going to kill them [the players]. The federation — whoever the bosses are — have to reflect. It's not normal."
Guardiola's ire might have been caused by the sight of right-back Kyle Walker holding his groin in the final minutes of the 3-1 win over Watford on Tuesday. The City manager said Walker "might have a little bit of a problem".
City beat Watford 3-1 on Tuesday, 48 hours after the leaders saw their 18-game winning streak come to an end in a draw at Crystal Palace.
A spell of four games in 11 days has taken its toll, with City's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus sustaining a knee ligament injury which will sideline him for four to six weeks.
"I know the show must go on and it doesn't matter with which guys the show must go on," Guardiola said.
"Here in England, you don't protect the players — that is a big mistake. You have to do it for the quality, not quantity. Play every three, four, five days, but not every two days ... Look at how many players have muscular injuries in this period. But it doesn't matter; the show must go on. And that's why there will be players not fit."
Guardiola's comments came as Palace's Scott Dann and Jason Puncheon were ruled out for the remainder of the season. Manager Roy Hodgson said both players had suffered cruciate ligament injuries in Sunday's 0-0 draw with City.
"We won't see anything of those players for the rest of our season and it is going to be hard for them to get ready even for the start of next season, because these are serious injuries," Hodgson said after Palace's 2-1 win at Southampton on Tuesday.
Guardiola is the latest in a long list of high-profile managers to question the traditional English fixture schedule this season, his Manchester United counterpart Jose Mourinho being chief among them.
And while the City manager believes in the traditions of the English game, he believes the Premier League will have to review television schedules which have led to a lopsided fixture list with some teams playing on two days recovery and others up to five.
"Of course, space them out. I'm not saying change Boxing Day [December 26] but you cannot play at midday at Selhurst Park, come back, celebrate New Year's Eve but are thinking about the game two days later," he said.
"People say it's impossible. It's not basketball or tennis, the players need recovery. Just see how many players have muscular injuries."
Meanwhile, Jesus' loss is a blow to player and club, especially in a World Cup year that promises so much for the 20-year-old Brazilian star.
"Hopefully he will be back as soon as possible," Guardiola said.
De Bruyne's performance against Watford was a particularly impressive effort, given that he only passed himself fit four hours before kick off.
"Kevin went out on the pitch in the afternoon and wanted to play," Guardiola said.
"He had some pain but wanted to play, if he wants to play then I want him to play."
The same was true of the returning David Silva, who had been absent due to complications involving the health of his pregnant wife.
The midfielder has been travelling between Manchester and Spain and Guardiola is prepared to give the Spanish international more time off if he requires it.
"We are very happy David is back," he said. "We don't know how long but he made another exhibition. He's essential, he showed how important he is for us.
"Maybe [he will return]. 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."
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Raheem Sterling scored his ninth goal in nine home league matches, tapping in Leroy Sane's cross as Watford were caught napping in the opening seconds before Christian Kabasele sliced an attempted clearance into his own net in the 13th minute.
Sergio Aguero sealed the victory in the 63rd minute before a late Watford consolation from Andre Gray.
The win put City on 62 points from 22 games, 15 clear of their cross-city rivals Manchester United, although champions Chelsea have the chance to go second, albeit still 14 points behind, if they win at Arsenal on Wednesday.
Updated: January 3, 2018 09:01 AM