Wednesday 26 June 2019

Guardiola happy to be chasing trophies on all fronts

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

James Ducker

Pep Guardiola has insisted he would rather be challenging for silverware on all fronts than out of both domestic cup competitions like Liverpool, even if that means Manchester City's title bid is complicated by fixture congestion.

City play Burton Albion in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final at the Etihad Stadium tonight and face a minimum of five more domestic games than Liverpool this season.

And, if Guardiola's charges overcome League One opposition to reach the League Cup final on February 24 and also progress to the FA Cup final in May, there is the prospect of them playing 10 more domestic games than their Merseyside title rivals.

Nonetheless, Guardiola would much prefer the headache that comes with trying to win trophies and believes he has the squad to tackle the challenge, providing they are not beset by injuries.

"If everyone is fit and not injured we can cope with it. The problem is if you have 10 injured players, then it's almost impossible," he said.

"I prefer it (being involved in four competitions), definitely. I like to be in the four competitions as far as possible. When Wigan put us out of the FA Cup last season, I was sad. I take the cups seriously.

"Of course, you need a big squad - without quality you can't even win one trophy. With the quality and amount of players we have, you can do it because the team is always stable."

Guardiola is expected to field a similar team against Burton to the one that thrashed Rotherham United 7-0 in the FA Cup last Sunday, when he made eight changes to the side that beat Liverpool 2-1 last week to reignite the title race.

The City boss laughed off claims he instructed City's groundsman to keep the grass at the Etihad Stadium longer than normal in a bid to disrupt Liverpool's threat on the counter-attack.

"I never did - if Liverpool want to play quick, we want to play quicker, so we never manipulated.

"Normally, when this kind of thing happens, always at the end, karma punishes you."

Burton manager Nigel Clough is hoping to add another chapter to his family's love affair with the League Cup, which began when Nottingham Forest, managed by his father, Brian, beat Liverpool in the replayed 1978 final.

Clough accepts that Burton, with their £3m-a-year wage bill, will have pull of one of the biggest cup shocks of all time if they are to beat City over two legs. But he will draw inspiration from those halcyon days when trips to Wembley with his father were the norm.

"We didn't lose for two-and-a-half years in the competition at Forest. It wasn't about winning, it was about the performance as well. It was standards," he said.

"We played Oldham in the final (in 1990) and won 1-0 but we didn't play very well. We were in the next morning, running.

"We used to do lengths of the pitch - sides as we used to call them - and it was: 'Go and do six sides.' Seriously, that's what's happened the morning after the game. No balls to be seen." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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