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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Pep Guardiola savours ‘dream’ derby preparation

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Pep Guardiola feels having four clear days ahead of a Manchester derby is a “dream” at this stage of the season.Guardiola’s Manchester City host arch-rivals United at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday in what could be a key match in their bid to win a fourth successive Premier League crown.It is a crucial month for City with games against title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal to come, as well as the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie and an FA Cup quarter-final.City were last in action on Tuesday when they thrashed Luton 6-2 in the cup fifth round and Guardiola believes the derby preparations since have been ideal.“Tuesday to Sunday is enough (time), it is a dream,” he said. “We will recover well.“The problem is Saturday to Tuesday with trips, that is less recovery, but the players were extraordinary against Luton.“We had two days off with rest, not seeing each other, and then two days to prepare for United.”Yet despite opportunities for rest being minimal as last season’s treble winners again pursue glory on three fronts, Guardiola admits this time of year – with all its intensity – is what he relishes most.He said: “Absolutely, (these periods) are the best. How nice. I prefer that than the opposite.“It is so nice to have this fixture against United, to have the chance to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, then we have Anfield and then before the international break we have the chance against Newcastle to reach the semi-final of the FA Cup.Erik ten Hag’s position at Manchester United has frequently come under scrutiny this season (Mike Egerton/PA)“We worked so hard since we arrived here to live these kind of moments.”United’s form throughout most of the season has been unconvincing and they face a tall order to finish in the top four.Manager Erik ten Hag’s future has been the subject of recurring speculation but Guardiola refused to offer an opinion on the reasons for United’s failures to sustain momentum.The Spaniard said: “I expect the best from United but I don’t talk a word about what they do because I respect them too much and I don’t want my words to be misunderstood.“When I make comments people always say, ‘Pep jibe’ and it’s never my intention. That’s why it is better I don’t say anything.“I have a lot of respect for the institution, United, and the players and Erik, and when I see what we have to do my players will know it.”

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