Pep Guardiola “would have preferred an opponent other than Leeds” this week

Pep Guardiola has admitted he was worried about Manchester City’s defense ahead of the World Cup break, and warned the manager they could lose no more ground to Arsenal ahead of their “terrible” January schedule.

City lost 2-1 to Brentford at the Etihad Stadium on November 12 in their last Premier League game before the World Cup and ahead of Wednesday’s game at Leeds, Guardiola admitted his side “couldn’t control” Ivan Toni, who scored for both visiting sides. goals for the past month. After Arsenal’s victory over West Ham on Boxing Day, Mikel Arteta’s side have a seven-point lead at the top of the table over second-placed Newcastle, but City can regain that place and reduce the gap to five points if they beat Leeds.

Guardiola said: “Against Brentford – when it’s you [have to] Play 10 balls against Tony – It’s hard to win the game – We can’t control long balls, we can’t control transfers and we totally were [in trouble].

“I would have preferred another opponent than Leeds at this moment after the World Cup. They are the most aggressive team in the Premier League, statistically. They don’t give you time to think and you have to be precise. After our defeat against Brentford, how strong Arsenal are, so are the opponents who [can] Come from behind, we must be alert and careful, because if the distance is greater, it will be very difficult to catch up with them.”

Guardiola was happier with City’s defense in their 3-2 win over Liverpool in the Carabao Cup last Thursday. “You can’t think against Liverpool that you wouldn’t give up chances – in transfers they are a great team,” he said. “I don’t think there is a team in this world [more impressed with] Every match is completely different and against them we defend really well.”

After Leeds, City will host Everton on New Year’s Eve, before playing six matches next month, including three matches against its direct rivals in the English Premier League. Next Thursday (5 January) they visit Chelsea before hosting the same opponent in the FA Cup third round three days later (8 January). Then there are just two days before visiting Southampton in the Carabao Cup (January 10), followed by three league matches in nine days – the Manchester derby at Old Trafford (January 14) and two home matches to round out the month: against Tottenham (January 19) and Wolves (January 22). .

Guardiola said: “Our schedule in January is very bad in terms of the amount of matches and the quality of the competitors. We have to restart. This is what we did against Liverpool and we hope we can continue.”

Erling Haaland scored his 24th goal of the season against Liverpool. Guardiola was asked if the striker’s foot injury, which had bothered him before, required management in light of a host of problems that caused the Norwegian to miss 16 games with his former club Borussia Dortmund in the 2021-22 season.

“The injury is completely different from last season,” the coach said. “It was a knock on his foot at Dortmund, when we played them in the Champions League [in October]. The doctor said he injured his ligaments and it hurts so much. It is not easy to recover, which is why he suffered.

Muscle problems [he had at Dortmund] Perfect and now his feet are much better.”

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