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Pep Guardiola: Manchester City boss wants fewer games, ‘more quality, less quantity’

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Tuesday’s Premier League game at Sheffield United will be Manchester City’s 36th game of the season

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says football is letting its elite players down and a “year of 400 days” is needed to cram in all the matches they are being asked to play.

Guardiola was one of several top-flight bosses to express their concern about the demanding festive schedule.

England forwards Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford have since suffered injuries.

Guardiola said: “I am so sorry for Kane and Rashford because they are good for the league but I am not surprised.”

Wolves, whose season began in July with Europa League qualifying ties, will play their 40th game of the season when they host leaders Liverpool on Thursday.

Should Portugal reach the Euro 2020 final, Wolves’ Portuguese contingent will have played more or less continuously from 25 July 2019 to 12 July 2020 – 354 days.

“The solution is to make a year of 400 days,” said Guardiola. “Then we can book another competition.”

However, that has already happened.

In 2021, 24 club teams – including eight from Europe – will compete in the expanded Club World Cup in China. By then, plans for a reformed European competition structure, including a third competition to go alongside an expanded Champions League and Europa League, should have been agreed by European governing body Uefa.

“Of course it is too much to expect,” said Guardiola. “All the managers complained about it but they [the authorities] don’t care.

“A distance of two or three days [between games] again and again. The players suffer. They want to do well and the clubs have a lot of pressure to win or qualify for the Champions League. We push and push. The body says ‘stop’, ‘enough’. With that number of games, the players break down.”

After a phenomenal start to the season, when he scored 14 goals in his first 16 games, the form of another England forward, Raheem Sterling, appears to have slowed.

The 25-year-old has scored six goals in his last 15 games, including two against League One side Oxford in the Carabao Cup.

Guardiola has picked Sterling at least 14 more times than any other player during his time at City. He feels the winger’s “standards are quite similar” and there are “no doubts” over Sterling’s overall contribution.

Asked what could ease the fixture burden, the City boss replied: “Fewer games, fewer competitions, fewer teams. More quality, less quantity.

“It is to protect the players. I can be tired – and I don’t run. For them they’d enjoy it more, the people too. People can live without football for a while. It’s too much.

“They can go to the theatre, to the cinema, restaurants, to watch the fireworks.”

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