Pep Guardiola hails Manchester City’s mental endurance across packed schedule

Pep Guardiola has marvelled at the mental strength of his Manchester City squad, praising their refusal to “fall down” despite a gruelling schedule.

Thursday’s Premier League trip to Brighton will be their 53rd match of a season which started with the Community Shield on August 6 and has included the European Super Cup against Sevilla, the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia and a run to the FA Cup final next month.

Last week they bowed out of the Champions League in a draining quarter-final penalty shootout against Real Madrid, but Guardiola is full of pride for the way his side have stayed up for the three-way title fight with Arsenal and Liverpool.

“The human being does not have no limits, science says you need a certain time to recover many things, not just physically – mentally as well,” he said.

“We played a lot of games. Madrid was really intense for many things, we were out of the Champions League having done really well and after two or three days we were tired. Not just in the legs, more complaining they were tired here (in the head).

“People sitting in chairs say, ‘Ah, I complain’. But I defend my players, I know what I’m talking about much, much better than the people outside. That’s why I say I’m really impressed, but all the time I’m thinking, ‘They will fall down’. This time (I thought) it would not be possible and still they make it possible.

“That’s why when I reflect on my period here I will always admire these type of players for many years still for finding a way to still be in. This is unbelievable.”

Despite Guardiola’s concerns about player welfare, the club have already committed to a pre-season tour to the United States in July, kicking off another campaign high on air miles.

Taking a pragmatist’s approach, he said: “We have to do it to pay the salaries, make better facilities, to know the fans around the world.

Guardiola believes his side could need a flawless run-in to take the title.
Guardiola believes his side could need a flawless run-in to take the title (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“We have to find the resources. I would love to not go to another continent, have one more week and train here, but you have to understand the clubs… you have to be sustainable.

“When I came here seven or eight years ago, not many people followed us, now we have won a lot and we have a lot more followers.”

In the more immediate term, Guardiola is clear that any dip in performance now could be decisive in the Premier League battle. City have been handed a narrow advantage by their rivals’ recent slips – Liverpool against Crystal Palace and Arsenal against Aston Villa – and have no intention of following with one of their own.

Asked if he needed a perfect finish of six wins from six, he added: “Yeah, absolutely. They have have given us a chance by losing their games but we knew what we had to do two weeks ago – win the games to have a chance in our hands to take the title.

“Nothing has changed from what we should do before.”