Guardiola raises injury concerns ahead of EPL restart

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              FILE - In this Saturday March 14, 2020 file photo an almost empty stadium approaches are seen around the Etihad Stadium where Manchester City was due to play Burnley in an English Premier League soccer match after all English soccer games were cancelled due to the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. The Premier League resumes Wednesday June 17 after its three-month suspension because of the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Jon Super, File)
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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is expecting “a lot of injuries” when the Premier League resumes after a 100-day shutdown and has no idea what to expect when his team plays Arsenal on Wednesday.

The top English clubs are resuming play after as little as three weeks of contact training following the lockdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Guardiola described that as an “incredible lack of preparation,” with City’s only friendly being an inter-squad match at its training ground which was used as much to prepare players for the locker-room protocols as anything else.

City could be busier than any other Premier League team over the next two months, with Guardiola’s team facing three games per week until Aug. 1 because of its involvement in the FA Cup and then a potential eight-team knockout bracket to complete the Champions League in mid-August. That would eat into the squad’s preparation time for the 2020-21 season.

All Guardiola can do, he said, was “pray a little bit” that some players can play more minutes than others and avoid injury.

“You ask me how is the team? I don’t know,” Guardiola said on a video call on Tuesday. “Tomorrow we will see the level of the team. … What we were worried is these three weeks, with incredible lack of preparation like other teams in the Premier League, is not like in Germany or Spain who had five or six weeks.

“You can play a game after three weeks of holidays but we were two weeks of holidays lying on the sofa, and that is why I think the players are not fully fit. But we have to start and finish the season so the damage economically to all the clubs can be reduced as much as possible.”

Guardiola urged his players to remember what they were like as “little kids,” playing in the school yard or “in the square on the street.”

“You have to follow what you know,” Guardiola said, “because we didn’t change much in these three weeks about what we have to do. This is the idea: to adapt in the situation and just play football.”

Guardiola was particularly affected by the pandemic because his mother died of COVID-19 in early April.

The opposition manager Guardiola will welcome to an empty Etihad Stadium on Wednesday — Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta — also contracted the virus in mid-March. That caused the suspension of the Premier League, which will end after 100 days.

Arteta was previously the assistant to Guardiola at City before joining Arsenal in December for his first senior managerial role.

“He knows secrets (about City) as much as I do,” Guardiola said. “He does not play and I do not play. This game belongs to the players.

“But of course, we know each other. He knows absolutely everything about us because we are the same what we are now as the moment he was here and he was an incredibly important part of our success in the last years. He helped us to be who we were and who we are.”

ON SILVA

Guardiola said David Silva will agree to a short-term contract extension that keeps him at City until the end of the season before the playmaker leaves the club after 10 years.

Silva’s deal was due to expire on June 30.

“It’s unfortunate he is going to finish his last games here without (fans) but he’s coming back and hopefully he can have the big farewell with people,” Guardiola said. “Always the big clubs become a huge, incredible club when they make these kinds of big gestures to these incredible players for what they have done for more than one decade.

“When everything is returning to normal the club will make an agreement with David and do what they have to do.”

ON HIS OWN FUTURE

Guardiola’s own contract has just one year remaining and the Spaniard will hold talks at the end of this season about potentially extending his stay beyond five years.

“All I can say is, like I said since the first day, how delighted I am here, how happy I am doing my job, how comfortable I am especially with the players and backroom staff and board,” he said. “I don’t have any complaints about what the club offer me from day one.

“We can do better, that’s why we work every day, but extend? We will see, we have time.”

ON LESSON LEARNED FROM GERMANY, SPAIN

Guardiola has been watching plenty of league play from Germany and Spain over the last few weeks, and was struck by both the atmosphere and the flow of the games.

“I learned that it was a bit weird,” he said. “I learn that one team, especially in Spain, can play incredibly well the first day, but the second day less. They go down in terms of rhythm and everything. I think ups and downs will happen during the games, especially two or three games in a row.”