Pep Guardiola has admitted he wants to “escape” from a “terrible” holiday programme despite seeing Manchester City surge 15 points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
Yesterday evening’s 1-0 win at Newcastle extended City’s winning run to 18 games and a record-equalling 11 away victories, but with a trip to Crystal Palace and Watford’s visit to the Etihad Stadium still to come over the festive period, he admits the schedule is taking its toll.
He said: “I saw the schedule in my office the other day and I wanted to escape because it is terrible.
“The games we are going to play, it’s tough. People say we have to play on Boxing Day and all the games in December, but it’s also January with the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup and then the Champions League in February.
“It will be tough for us – but it will be tough for our opponents and our competitors.”
City turned in a dominant display on Tyneside as Rafael Benitez’s men sat deep and in numbers in an effort to frustrate them, and they had only Raheem Sterling’s 31st-minute strike to show for their efforts when the Magpies launched a late assault which might have snatched them a point.
Guardiola was philosophical when asked about Newcastle’s approach.
He said: “As a manager, I have to adapt my team to convince them. In these 18 games, we have played against teams who have done high pressing, low pressing, counter-attacks, just set pieces, just like Tottenham who tried to go forward and attack, and in all of them, we have been able to beat them.
“The magnificent thing about football and any manager of any team is they can play any way. Teams can try to trick you, but you have to be able to beat them and until now we have been able to do that.”
Benitez’s tactics were slammed by television pundit Gary Neville, who branded them “embarrassing”.
However, the Spaniard said: “When you play against Manchester City, you have to be aware of the way they are doing things now. You just have to look at what happened when they played against Tottenham, Bournemouth or Swansea.
“We were in the game right until the end, it was very close. Our fans are clever and they know we needed to do things this way.”