After four successive FA Cup semi-final exits Pep Guardiola hopes his Manchester City players can shake off the mental fatigue of a congested run of fixtures to break that pattern against Sheffield United on Saturday.
City is once again chasing silverware on multiple fronts having reached the semi-finals of the Champions League by beating Bayern Munich 4-1 on aggregate on Wednesday.
It also faces a potential Premier League title decider against Arsenal on Wednesday.
First, however, Guardiola is only focused on beating a Sheffield United side on the verge of promotion back to the top flight.
“Hopefully, we can have it. Last season we arrived here, last three or four years, and we didn’t perform well,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday. “One reason is the fatigue.
“This year we have it. The Champions League quarter-final is so draining and we have to recover. Every season I have the feeling we’re not physically ready, hopefully this time we are.”
City lost to Liverpool in last season’s FA Cup final so Sheffield United appears to be an easier path to the May showdown against Brighton & Hove Albion or Manchester United, but Guardiola disagrees.
“No, I don’t have that feeling. Sheffield when I saw yesterday when we land from Munich, they play quite similar to when Chris Wilder (was there) in that incredible first season,” Guardiola said. “They are one or two games away from being promoted. It will be an extremely difficult game tomorrow.
“The qualities they have, the set pieces, linking in the channels, they are so aggressive in the channels. We will have to be there tomorrow at 4.45pm to be in the final.”
City will be without left back Nathan Ake who suffered a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw in Munich but Phil Foden could be in line for a start after returning to the bench in Munich.
“He’s not ready for tomorrow but I don’t know how the damage is. They made the final tests this morning to know exactly how he is,” Guardiola said.
Asked whether he would rotate his team with an eye on the crunch game against Arsenal, Guardiola said he would seek honest answers from his players.
“I have to see, I have to smell how the players are doing today. After Munich they couldn’t even celebrate because they were so tired,” Guardiola said. “We will train today and I will have to talk to some.”
City will not have to face Sheffield United’s midfield dup Tommy Doyle or James McAtee as both are on loan from City and under FA Cup rules are not eligible.
Guardiola said that is a shame.
“We loan players to get experience and what better experience than the FA Cup semi final, playing against City. But the rule is the rule and they cannot play,” he said.
City is playing in the FA Cup semi-finals for the sixth time in seven seasons, but has not won the trophy since thrashing Watford 6-0 in 2019.
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