Guardiola responds to Rodri ‘rest’ claim by pointing out who must play for Manchester City

Matt Stead
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and midfielder Rodri
Pep Guardiola knows Rodri is knackered

Pep Guardiola has sympathy for Rodri and will try to figure out a way to give him a breather, but there are some Manchester City players he “cannot rest”.

After the 3-3 Champions League draw with Real Madrid in midweek, 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; his last defeat for club or country was against a side managed by Cristian Stellini, with Harry Kane the goalscorer.

Rodri has, however, played less football than a fair few Premier League players this season, including one Manchester City teammate.

READ MORERodri ‘rest’? Arsenal trio and divisive Man Utd machine have played more this season

“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.”

Manchester City host Luton on Saturday, with title rivals Arsenal and Liverpool both playing on Sunday.

That gives Guardiola’s side the opportunity to top the Premier League table again and perhaps land the first psychological blow of the weekend; the champions are currently a point behind both in third but have not lost domestically since December.

Like the other two sides they are also in European competition – although for Liverpool that might not be the case for much longer. If they make it through their Champions League quarter-final against Real, City will not have a free midweek for the rest of the entire season.

Guardiola acknowledges that managing player fitness in certain circumstances will be almost impossible in that event.

“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.”

Nathan Ake and Kyle Walker are likely to still be sidelined against Luton, while Guardiola praised the “incredible job” Manchester City’s physios did in ensuring Josko Gvardiol could play against Real despite previously being a “doubt”.