Pep Guardiola is relishing the prospect of his Manchester City players being forced to get changed in the stadium bar before Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at Cheltenham Town, but has no particular thirst for a European ‘Super League’.
City’s superstar squad will put on kits and lace their boots in one of the hospitality areas at Whaddon Road, as part of the League Two club’s adaptation to abide by COVID-19 protocols.
Guardiola just had one stipulation to ensure his men are not tempted by a pre-match tipple.
“Please, only I ask to Cheltenham do not leave beers in the bar before the game,” he joked.
“We will be delighted to change in the bar, but no alcohol there because we want to win the game and be in perfect condition.”
For the City boss, it will be an experience to recall his first steps in coaching, when he led Barcelona B in the fourth tier of Spanish football.
And he was keen to point out that the pampered millionaire lifestyle is something no one experiences when starting out in the game.
“Of course,” he replied when asked if he had ever experienced anything similar.
“Everyone comes from the lower divisions, my friend. Or do you believe when we are under-16 or under-18 we fly in private jets?
“We play in these stadiums all our careers, we don’t play in big stadiums all the time. We came from [places like] Cheltenham. People cannot forget that, and it is a pleasure to play there.
“We were lucky to have success in our profession and go up the divisions, but we were there many times and we changed in bars as boys and we played football with incredible joy.
“We love this game and we change in these changing rooms for most of our careers, most of the time.”
@ManCity #ManCity pic.twitter.com/FC5VBcJO5r
— Cheltenham Town (@CTFCofficial) January 22, 2021
Nevertheless, Guardiola offered a stark warning to any stakeholders in the game who fail to nurture competitions lower down the pyramid.
“I have the feeling we cannot lose the local leagues,” he said. “What we should do is make every single league in Europe stronger than what it is.
“To make a super Premier League, you have to reduce the teams. But we cannot kill the lower divisions or the Premier League itself.
“I want to protect the local leagues. I like to play against Leicester, Brighton, Burnley, Arsenal, West Brom, Liverpool…I love it.”
Guardiola’s other note of caution related to player burnout, in a week where he lost star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury.
“I didn’t read the paper [about the Super League] that you comment on, but I’m sure there will be more games – they are not going to reduce it,” he added.
“All I can say is, let the players breathe a bit more, to recover better and make a better performance to make more spectators come back when they return to the stadiums or in front of the TV.
“More goals and action to make our sport better. This will only happen if players are fitter and feel more comfortable with the amount of games.”
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