Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has promised to unleash his strongest side against Burnley in the third round of the FA Cup today.
The Premier League leaders played nine matches last month, with Guardiola lamenting after Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Watford that English football’s festive schedule was “going to kill the players”.
But he gave an emphatic response yesterday when asked if he would play younger players against Sean Dyche’s men.
“No way. We will try to play the best team as possible,” he told a press conference. “The schedule is what it is. All the doctors and physios say less than 48 hours, the body hasn’t recovered but we have to adapt. It is what it is.”
City remain without striker Gabriel Jesus, who will be absent until February with medial knee ligament damage suffered during the 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace last Sunday, while right-back Kyle Walker is a doubt after limping off against Watford with a groin problem.
Midfielder David Silva has missed several matches recently to be with his young son Mateo, who is seriously ill after being born prematurely, and is also a doubt.
Guardiola’s promise about his line-up is also a nod to the job Dyche is doing at Turf Moor, with the Spaniard claiming the seventh-placed side should be considered as league title contenders.
“He deserves a lot of credit,” Guardiola said of Burnley’s English manager. “What he has done so far is amazing. Out of the five or six contenders to win the league, it’s Burnley.”
City have not lost a domestic game since they were knocked out of last season’s FA Cup by Arsenal at the semi-final stage in April.
They did, though, find it tough against Burnley in the league in October at the Etihad Stadium and needed two quick goals from Nicolas Otamendi and Leroy Sane in the final 20 minutes to ensure a flattering 3-0 victory.
But Guardiola again played down talk of his team completing a quadruple.
“Maybe that question if we are in all the four competitions, then I will talk it up,” he said. “But tomorrow is the first round for us. But at the moment, the four competitions is not realistic – you need 34 players.”
If City reach the finals of the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup, they will have played a minimum of 63 games by the end of the season. Even without participation in Europe, Dyche has indicated that he will rest several players after seeing their form slip over Christmas and the new year.
Leading scorer Chris Wood and left-back Stephen Ward will be assessed to see if they are over the knee injuries that have kept them out of recent fixtures.
Burnley, without a win in five league matches, fell victim to arguably the greatest upset of last season’s FA Cup, losing at home to Lincoln City, then a non-league club, in the fifth round in February.
“We have to rotate,” Dyche said. “We have no choice. The players have played two games in three days, the bulk of them.
“They are, as much as I work them hard and their will to work hard, humans and I don’t forget that.”