(Reuters) – Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says that post-World cup fatigue and injuries to key players, rather than complacency, could disrupt the club’s Premier League title defence.
Despite winning the first two games of the league season, Guardiola admitted he was concerned about the lack of pre-season preparation for a number of players involved at the World Cup in the summer.
“Complacency is not the problem. The problem is that now – while we are not far away – we are still not fit,” the Spaniard told reporters ahead of Saturday’s league game away to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Guardiola said players normally need a day or two to recover fully after a game, but they are not yet at that level, requiring more time because of a lack of pre-season work.
City are already without midfielder Kevin de Bruyne for up to three months after he sustained a knee injury in training last week, while back-up goalkeeper Claudio Bravo also faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines after rupturing his Achilles tendon.
“Some players need much more time to win power, strength. The players then complain about muscular problems – that’s why Claudio got out, Kevin (out),” he added.
City recalled Aro Muric from his loan spell with NAC Breda this week and the 19-year-old could be on the bench at Molineux.
“I have said before, Aro has amazing potential as a goalkeeper,” Guardiola said.
“The second team wasn’t a proper competition for him last year; that’s why he went to Holland to play the big teams. He came back because maybe he’ll play in the other competitions. We trust Aro, no doubts about that.”
Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves, who won the Championship last season, are chasing their first win on their return to the top flight.
The teams finished goalless after extra-time in the League Cup last October, with City emerging victorious on penalties.
“They destroyed the championship last season, the way they played attractive football,” Guardiola said of Wolves.
“We knew it from the beginning how tough it would be in the Carabao Cup when (we played them) and it went to penalties. It’s another game, but we need to be consistent, humble and respect the opponent and try to make a good game.”
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by David Goodman)