(Reuters) - Competing in Europe this season has put teams at a disadvantage as the punishing schedule leaves little time for players to recover between matches, Pep Guardiola said on Friday.
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the season’s start back to September and teams began their European campaigns only this week. They will be playing group-stage matches every week until the international break next month.
With Premier League fixtures sandwiched in between, Guardiola said the “crazy schedule” made squad planning difficult ahead of Saturday’s match against West Ham United.
“Definitely, this league is so difficult,” Guardiola said in response to a question on whether top teams were at a disadvantage due to their European participation.
“The guys who have seven, eight days between games have more time to prepare. On the other side, we are competing for titles and this is how we have to live.
“All the teams playing in Europe have the same problem... Right now the day before I don’t know my selection. We play tomorrow at 1230, not much recovery. The guys train well and tonight we decide.”
Guardiola did not reveal whether midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and defenders Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte would be involved while striker Gabriel Jesus is still not training with the team.
“Some of them would be involved, some of them, no,” he said. “You will know tomorrow.”
City are 11th with a game in hand and Guardiola said fans can expect an “open title race” this season after Liverpool and City dominated the last two campaigns as the league got to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It looks like there are unexpected results, but the situation is all over the world not just in this bubble,” he added.
“I think before I came here the history of the Premier League speaks for itself. It’s the most open league in the world... The normality will be back this season.”
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis
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