Manchester – Pep Guardiola said on Friday he agrees with title rival Jurgen Klopp about the hectic schedule the Premier League’s top teams have to face ahead of his side’s clash with Southampton.
Klopp criticised as “too much” the number of matches his side has to play as he struggles to find a solution to a fixture pile-up that sees their League Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa clash with December’s Club World Cup in Qatar.
Guardiola would benefit from Liverpool – who have already played 17 matches across five competitions – being over-worked as they slug it out for the Premier League crown, but the Manchester City boss also thinks the load needs to be lightened.
“I completely agree with Jurgen. The only way we can solve this is less games,” Guardiola told reporters before his team host the struggling Saints for the second time in a week.
“There needs to be less fixtures, less competitions and more recovery. At Christmas time, we play 27th and 29th December.
“We always have this debate. They always talk about it in UEFA meetings. I’m with Jurgen when he makes these kinds of statements about too much football.”
City have played 118 matches over the last two seasons, winning five domestic trophies in England, and Guardiola admitted that frequent line-up changes and prioritising certain matches is the only way to go.
“I prioritised by not playing Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in the Carabao Cup,” he said.
“I think that Jurgen and Arsenal have done the same. The exception was Manchester United with the situation they have.
For others, that competition is good to rotate the team and for those other players who don’t play too often. But yes, there is too much football.”
Ahead of Saturday’s Premier League match at home to Southampton, Guardiola also offered his support to Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka.
The Switzerland midfielder will not play for his club against Wolverhampton Wanderers after he reacted angrily to being booed when substituted in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium.
Xhaka has apologised but he admitted to being upset about the level of personal abuse he has received on social media, leading to his public show of anger.
Guardiola is sympathetic to how the player has been treated.
“It’s not easy for the players sometimes and I can understand Xhaka,” he said.
“Maybe I’m not the best guy to say this because sometimes I lose my emotion and cannot control myself but you have to try because at the end of the day it’s just a game, so have fun and try to do your best.
“I’m pretty sure Xhaka gives absolutely everything to do his best for Arsenal and their teammates to get them winning games.
“He’s the captain because he has something special in the locker room. It has happened, sometimes you lose control.
“Hopefully in the future the fans can forgive him and Xhaka can come back and show what an incredible player he is.