Guardiola to make late semi-final selection calls after gruelling recent schedule

Pep Guardiola has advised his players to “sleep, sleep, sleep” before Manchester City’s FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool.

The game will be City’s second against Jürgen Klopp’s team in seven days after Sunday’s Premier League draw and their third game of the week after Wednesday’s attritional draw at Atlético Madrid. Although Guardiola would prefer a less congested schedule, he has no complaints about City competing on all fronts at the defining end of the campaign.

“It happens for one reason: because we’re fighting for all the titles,” he said. “That is good news; I’m saying that with a big smile, it’s not that I am grumpy. I’m so happy to live that. It’s not an ideal situation but where in this world is an ideal situation?

“Look what happens two, three hours away from here [the Russia-Ukraine war]. So for tomorrow I say to my players: ‘Have good food, sleep a lot, take a nap. Sleep, sleep, sleep – a lot of hours, as many hours as possible, then good food and tomorrow at 3.30 we will be there [for the kick-off].”

Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker are serious doubts after respective foot and ankle injuries they sustained in Madrid. “They didn’t train today,” Guardiola said. “We’ll see tomorrow but apparently it’d be so [too] close after what happened on Wednesday. He [Walker] had a big twist, and he is getting better but we will see the process for the next hours and next days for the next games.”

Zack Steffen has been City’s domestic cup goalkeeper in place of Ederson, the club’s number one. Guardiola has not decided whether the American will start against Liverpool.

“I am going to think about it,” he said. “We still have until training tonight [Friday] and then speaking with the doctors and physios regarding the condition of many players. Tonight or tomorrow morning I’ll decide but of course in the FA Cup normally we play Zack.”

This is City’s fifth FA Cup semi-final under Guardiola, though they have reached only one final. “This is an incredible achievement and shows our consistency,” he said. “But we didn’t perform well in these semi-final games [that were lost]. Hopefully we can perform a little bit better. We have a chance to reach the final in a storybook tournament.”

Ruben Dias, an unused City substitute in midweek, is pushing to return having been out since early March with a thigh problem. Forward Gabriel Jesus is back in contention after serving a European suspension.

Liverpool will make a late check on the fitness of forward Diogo Jota. The Portugal international came off early in the second half of Wednesday’s 3-3 draw with Benfica with a knock but manager Jürgen Klopp is optimistic he will be ready. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are set to return to the starting line-up after being rested among seven changes in midweek. The remainder of those players left out for the European tie – full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, centre-back Virgil Van Dijk and midfielders Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara – are all expected to be named in the team.

– Guardian

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