Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes a 400 or 500-day year would be required for Champions League expansion because Premier League clubs already play too many games.
The European Club Association (ECA) and UEFA are said to be in talks about adding another four matchdays to the Champions League schedule, which would result in finalists playing 17 games.
However, with City’s trip to Sheffield United on Tuesday their eighth game in the past three and a half weeks, Guardiola is an advocate of taking a scythe to the gruelling schedule in England.
“I think the solution is you have to make a year of 400 days, that is a solution, 400 or 500, more or less. After that we can book another competition. Maybe UEFA or FIFA can talk about it. We have few days a year, that’s the problem,” said Guardiola.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 16, 2019
Champions League expansion would likely have negative ramifications for the EFL Cup.
After stating the EFL Cup “wouldn’t be interesting” if Premier League sides withdrew in order to lighten their loads, the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona offered a more ruthless alternative.
“Eliminate competitions. Take them out completely – so less games,” he said.
“Less games, less competitions, less teams, more quality, less quantity. The people are going enjoy it. The people are going to go to the theatre, to the cinema, restaurants, to watch the fireworks. That is what they would do.”
At the crux of Guardiola’s argument is a desire to reduce the physical workload on players.
He said: “There are less games [in Germany in Spain], much less than here. In the Bundesliga there are 18 teams not 20, one cup not two. They have a break, in Spain they have a break.Tthe cup is run with one game, not two. So it’s a big difference.
“It’s just to protect the players … For them they’d enjoy it more, the people too. People say they can’t live without football, they can live without football for a while. It’s too much, honestly.”
The City boss suggested serious injuries sustained by Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford since the turn of the year were a result of the excessive demands.
— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) January 20, 2020
Kane’s hamstring problem and Rashford’s back issue were a blow to Gareth Southgate ahead of Euro 2020, but Guardiola feels those in charge of the game in England cannot be surprised.
“It’s a big blow for Gareth, for the national team. Kane and Rashford are incredibly important players for them. Hopefully there isn’t another one who does that and they can recover,” he said.
“It’s an incredible amount of games. Now we’re talking about it because they are [injured], but looking back at the injuries Newcastle have had, we have had, all the teams. That is normal. With that number of games, sooner or later the players break down.
“I’m not really surprised. I’m so sorry for them, but with this amount of games it happens. The big administration people cannot complain because it’s normal this happens.
“Of course it is [too much to expect]. They arrive in the Euros, playing with the national teams trying their best, then [back here] after no more than 20 days because the business, the show, must go on. It’s unsustainable.
“Sooner or later the players fall down. It’s too much. I’m so sorry for Kane and Rashford because they are incredible and good for the league, but we demand a lot from the players, it’s too much.
— Harry Kane (@HKane) January 11, 2020
“They should reflect [on] it but all the managers complained about it and they don’t care. Now Boxing Day is over, another season, and prepare for the next one. A distance of two or three days again and again.
“The players in the end suffer. They want to do well and the clubs have a lot of pressure to win titles or qualify for the Champions League, the players want to do well. We push them and we are being pushed.
“At some moment the body says stop, it’s enough.”
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