Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has warned his players not to use injuries and fatigue as an excuse as the English champions chase a historic quadruple of trophies this season.
City secured the first of a potential four-trophy haul by beating Chelsea on penalties on Sunday in the League Cup, and entertain West Ham in the Premier League on Wednesday just a point adrift of leaders Liverpool.
Guardiola’s men also face Swansea in the FA Cup quarter-finals, and are well set for the last eight of the Champions League after winning 3-2 away to Schalke in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
However, injuries to Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho blighted victory on Sunday, with John Stones and Gabriel Jesus also unlikely to return before an international break in mid-March.
“I don’t want to see excuses from my players about tiredness, fixtures, schedules, the number of games. That is nothing,” said Guardiola on Tuesday.
“When you have the opportunity to fight until the end, to fight for the title, then the power, the energy that gives you that is higher than any excuses you find.
“We have to run and beat them (the opposition), then beat them again. In the last two months of the season, the mentality makes the difference.
“I don’t care about the way we play. I want the smell in the locker room, I want to smell at the beginning of the game and during the game, that we can win.
“When one competition is over, I want to see that we want to win this title. I want to see it on their faces they want to win the title, and I hope that after I will be able to tell you I saw something special.”
Fernandinho’s absence was strongly felt when City lost to Crystal Palace and Leicester in December to cede Liverpool an advantage in the title race, while Laporte has made such a big impression in just over a year in England that the Frenchman was rewarded with a new contract last week.
“People say ‘Without this player, they are not the same’. It doesn’t matter,” added Guardiola.
“We have a good squad, a good second team, and I want to see the desire that we want to win the title.”
A run of three draws in four Premier League games for Liverpool has allowed the champions back into the race, the latest of which came in a 0-0 draw away to Manchester United in the hours before the League Cup final.
And Guardiola wants his side to continue applying pressure, with Liverpool desperate to end a 29-year wait to win the title.
“When I’ve said that we focus on our game, that’s because it’s the truth. But of course we look at what they do, and when they don’t win, we are happy,” he said.
“We have the difference of one point between us and we have 33 to play for, so it’s in our hands. It’s in their hands, but our hands too.
“The only thing we can do is put on pressure, to feel we are not to drop points, but to win.
“Every game is the same. When you are on top, you can drop points, but when you are behind, you cannot.”AFP