Pep Guardiola has called for ‘the basics’ from his Manchester City squad amid the ‘crazy’ football schedule.
City face West Ham in the Premier League this weekend, ahead of a congested fixture schedule that will see the champions play nine times across all competitions before the turn of the New Year.
Guardiola’s side booked their place in the Champions League’s knockout stages as group winners with a midweek win over Paris Saint-Germain, and will now turn their attention to closing the gap on league leaders Chelsea.
Guardiola admits he has been pleased with his start to the season and has called for focus ahead of a challenging test against the fourth-place Hammers.
“It’s a different competition,” said Guardiola at his pre-match press conference. “We are incredibly happy and delighted to be in the last 16 of the Champions League and at this part of the season to be not far from the top of the Premier League. It’s difficult to get through the group stage and now it allows us to focus on the league.
“Last season at home was the game we deserved not to win, that game [West Ham] were much better, they were better than us.
“We know how difficult it will be it’s a new challenge we can be consistent in our performance and we are going to try.”
Guardiola was asked whether he believes his side can mount a winning run of form, but says football is impossible to predict and insists his focus is on West Ham this weekend.
🗣 "The players know exactly how strong they are."
Pep Guardiola is questioned whether Manchester City are capable of achieving the momentum again from their unbeaten run at this point last season pic.twitter.com/9epNepRIBT
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) November 26, 2021
The Spaniard is expecting a tough test against David Moyes’ side, who eliminated City from the Carabao Cup on penalties last month.
“I have the feeling as a manager that before the game, I never count what we did before it will happen tomorrow,” he said.
“It is a new opponent. I would like to predict we are going to win an incredible run of games, but it is impossible.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, not even against West Ham at 14:00 on Sunday. I want us to be consistent, playing our level.
“We lost on penalties to West Ham, we know what we have to do. Our performance will dictate how we are.”
Guardiola also discussed the demanding schedule placed on players, admitting there is little time for his squad to rest amid the ‘crazy calendar’.
City face West Ham this weekend before a midweek trip to Aston Villa, the latter the first of eight fixtures across all competitions in December, and the Catalan urged his side to ‘do the basics’ amid any potential dip in form.
“With this crazy calendar, they don’t have time to rest,’ Guardiola said.
“The English guys got to the European final, they had two or three weeks, came back again, and then the Community Shield. You cannot imagine how difficult it is for the players every three days. It is so demanding.
“So, you have to come back to the basics. Sometimes you help the team with the defensive work and step by step you come back. When one player doesn’t play good, I don’t doubt they have the skills. Do the basics and step by step you will come back.”
The 50-year-old also spoke on Raheem Sterling’s return to form, with the winger having scored crucial goals in wins over Everton and PSG across the past week.
The England international’s performances have increased optimism he can return to his best after a difficult period, and Guardiola admits he has been delighted with Sterling’s showings.
“I am so glad for him,” he said.
“He helps us that’s for sure. He will fight to be better and better. It is important for the strikers and wingers to score a lot of goals and get assists. He was decisive.”