By Andy Hampson, PA
Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City players they need to be ready to play at a moment’s notice.
The City boss is expecting the depth of his squad to be tested in the coming weeks with little respite in their fixture schedule.
The club are currently four games into a run of nine matches in the space of four weeks between the November international break and December 19th.
Guardiola says he will need to take into account a number of factors when selecting his teams and players will need to expect the unexpected.
“Sometimes we let them rest but everyone has to be ready, they know it,” said Guardiola, who has close to a fully-fit squad available for Saturday’s Premier League trip to Watford after a number of injury issues at Aston Villa in midweek.
“Sometimes I’m mad and take decisions people weren’t thinking, and some who people don’t expect to play play, like Cole Palmer against Everton. Nobody expected it and he played.
“Everybody has to be ready and it’s good everyone is back because December is really tough with the amount of games. We need everyone fresh to win, win and win again.”
One player Guardiola has no concerns about being ready is Phil Foden. The England midfielder has not featured in any of the last three games due to an ankle injury but has been pushing to return as soon as possible.
The 21-year-old was an unused substitute in Wednesday’s victory at Aston Villa and is in contention to play at Vicarage Road.
Guardiola said: “He’s a guy who, in (our) experience together, holds the pain. He has pain but it doesn’t matter, (he says), ‘I play, I play’.
“So when he has discomfort and says he does not feel good, it’s because he does not feel good. This is what happened.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 3, 2021
“But he’s a guy who tolerates really well. Normally when you train with pain, it’s impossible to wake up in the morning and be clean with everything, but he’s a guy where it’s not a problem. He loves playing football too much.
“Even in a bad situation, he wants to play and play, and not all of them are like this.”
Guardiola points out that does not mean he would encourage players to play through pain, but anyone not involved could lose their place to others.
He said: “Speak with all the managers, there are players who want to play even when they’re injured and (there are) other ones (who do not). For example, in my career, I was softer. When I had pain, I had pain and I didn’t want to play.
“If there’s a problem another one will come in and, if he’s playing (well), he’ll continue.
“But if he’s injured, he’s injured. It’s not a problem. I never push a player who doesn’t feel good to play.
“If he doesn’t play another one is coming in, wait for your moment.
“When you’re fit convince me and your mates as well that you are ready to help us win the games. It’s not more complicated than that.”