Pep Guardiola fears World Cup may disrupt Man City's rhythm

City have traditionally put together long winning runs from November onwards - but that will not be the case this year

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola fears the World Cup could play havoc with the rhythm of his side.

Qatar 2022 kicks off on November 20 - the first time the global finals have been switched from summer to winter.

City, champions of England four of the past five seasons and looking for a hat-trick of top-flight titles, are perennial slow starters, with Guardiola nearly always the last manager to recall his players from their summer break and someone who eschews more than a couple of warm-up matches.

Despite two draws, City have made a fast start to the new Premier League campaign, winning the other four and scoring 20 goals.

“It is so important to maintain our consistent start to the season,” said Guardiola. “I am not thinking much outside the next game."

Mindful of the rigours of a long and arduous season on four fronts — City kicked off their Champions League quest with a 4-0 win over Sevilla on Tuesday — and the physical and mental toll that will take on a high-quality but deliberately small squad, the Catalan maestro prefers to build to a crescendo through the middle of the season.

November and December have traditionally been a time when City flourish. However, Guardiola knows he cannot rely on that regular surge this time around, with the Premier League resuming only on December 26 — 12 days after the World Cup final.

“Two seasons ago we lost seven points in the first five games and last season we lost five points in the first five games," he added. "We cannot forget three seasons ago when Liverpool won the Premier League, we lost five points in the first five games.

“Always in this period we drop points, then after we make maybe 12, 13, 14 games in a row winning.

“This year that isn’t going to happen because when we are strongest — October, November, December — this is the World Cup.

“We feel good and we have been quite consistent so far. I have liked what I have seen from day one, now we need to continue. It is a hectic schedule. In the Premier League if you relax a little I know what will happen.”

The period after the traditional November hiatus has been, as Guardiola alluded to, a time City usually hit their straps.

Last season they won 11 successive Premier League games from November 21, scoring 32 goals in the process.

That was topped in the 2020/21 season when City recorded 16 wins and two draws between November 21 and March 7. In that spell they won 13 games in succession.

But Guardiola, like everyone else, is in the dark as to what effect the first mid-season World Cup will have on his squad, the vast majority of whom will see action in Qatar — though not goal machine Erling Haaland after Norway failed to qualify.

Injuries and fatigue will play a part after the World Cup but before it there is the need to ensure that players concentrate on club form and are not distracted by selection or injury fears.

City have a particularly demanding run of big games, starting at the Etihad this Saturday against Tottenham Hotspur, who took six points off City last season.

Updated: September 07, 2022, 6:23 PM
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