Chicago: Pep Guardiola has said his preparations for Manchester City’s Premier League title defence have been affected by the World Cup.
Guardiola has travelled to the United States for games against Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool and Bayern Munich with a squad made up mostly of young players as many of his regular stars are enjoying an extended break following their exploits in Russia.
First team stars such as Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Ederson, David Silva, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker and John Stones have not made the journey to compete in the annual International Champions Cup pre-season tournament with most not expected back until a week before the start of the domestic season in England.
It’s far from ideal but Guardiola won’t force any player back just for the sake of it. “It is what it is,” said the Spaniard. “We spoke – they have to come back ready. If the days before they are tired and they don’t want to fight for the Community Shield, play at Arsenal, then stay on holidays. We cannot forget what we’ve done but we start all over again. If they are ready they’ll help and if not we’ll wait for them. If they are not mentally and physically ready, they won’t come back. No use forcing them.”
On failing to sign Jorginho who has gone to Chelsea from Mialn, Guardiola added: “I was disappointed (not to sign him). We tried, but players have to go where they go. It would have been a mistake for him if he came and he wanted to go to Chelsea with Maurizio Sarri.”
You can’t force any player to play until he is mentally and physically ready. If they are tired, then no use playing them
Former England goalkeeper Joe Hart, meanwhile, is poised for some surprise playing time in the US having returned to the club from a loan spell at West Ham United. He last played for City in a Champions League qualifier against Steaua Bucharest in August 2016 having been axed by Guardiola following his arrival in Manchester two years ago.
“Joe is our player,” Guardiola said. “He’s one of the most incredible professionals, I’ve ever met. He’s training like a young guy of 18.”