EPL

If he needs a rest he will have rest – Pep Guardiola knows Rodri must be tired

By Sports Desk April 12, 2024

Pep Guardiola has said he will rest Rodri if the Spain midfielder asks to sit out Saturday’s Premier League match against Luton.

Following Tuesday’s 3-3 Champions League draw with Real Madrid, Rodri’s 41st appearance of the season, the 27-year-old said he was tired and that a rest was “something we are planning”.

Rodri is arguably the most difficult player for Guardiola to replace in his squad, and City lost all four of the domestic games he missed through suspension earlier this season. They have not lost any of the last 66 games in which Rodri played.

“I didn’t speak with him but if he needs a rest he will have rest,” Guardiola said on Friday. “Or no. I don’t know.

“I have the feeling that the games when he was tired like against Crystal Palace and Madrid, he was better in the second half. He runs more and was more precise in the second half than the first.

“More than the physicality, it is a case of spending mental energy. Playing every three days, three days. Of course he’s tired, playing a lot of minutes. Rodri is so important for us and we’ll decide tomorrow what we have to do.”

If City beat Real in next Wednesday’s second leg of their Champions League quarter-final, they will not have a free midweek for the rest of the campaign, and Guardiola acknowledged it is increasingly difficult to manage player fitness during such an intense schedule.

“If a player doesn’t want to play then he’s not going to play, simple,” he said. “Another one will play. If he’s exhausted, it can happen and another player is going to play.

“It’s not just Rodri. I’d love to rest central defenders but we don’t have them. In the (international) friendly games they were injured and we are in big, big trouble. So they cannot rest.”

Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Josko Gvardiol got City’s goals in Madrid, with Erling Haaland having scored only one in his last five for City – although he has 30 goals for the season so far.

Haaland may have scored 82 goals in 90 appearances since joining City at the start of last season, but Jamie Carragher this week said he was a luxury player who is not yet at a world-class level.

Guardiola has defended the 23-year-old striker against criticism but said there was still much he could do to improve his game.

“He’s a young player,” Guardiola said. “He has some departments where he has to improve, like a 33-year-old player has margins to improve too. But it’s more about the team than him. We scored three goals (in Madrid). They had two central defenders close to him and it’s not easy.

“It’s the most difficult position on the pitch. Two against one. They were so tight and are really good defenders…

“He has to play more minutes, learn what you have to do. The target is not to win the Ballon d’Or, it’s the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, and he did it.

“Without him what we won last season, five titles, it wouldn’t be possible, no chance.”

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