Manchester City will play a virtual must-win match at Molineux against Wolverhampton on Friday, but manager Pep Guardiola may be just as concerned about the Premier League schedule than how his club can stay in the title race.
City is now 14 points back of Liverpool, and faces two matches in less than 48 hours in a frantic case of scheduling congestion for many EPL clubs.
Wolves One of ‘Toughest Opponents’ for Man City
At the halfway point of the season, Liverpool is on the verge of putting away the Premier League title race, making it critical for Man City to get every point they possibly can if they want to maintain any hope of staging an improbable comeback.
That starts with the match at Wolves, which has proven to be a difficult nut to crack, even for some of the top sides in the EPL. Other than undefeated Liverpool, Wolverhampton has the fewest losses in the league with three, meaning City has its work cut out if it wants to get the full three points on Friday. City has already lost to Wolves once this year, taking a 2-0 defeat at the Etihad earlier this year.
“They are always one of the toughest opponents,” Guardiola told reporters. “It is one of the toughest opponents at home, but away as well. Hopefully we can maintain the good level we have had in the last few weeks.”
Wolves are hitting a punishing portion of their schedule, facing Man City and then Liverpool in the span of just two days.
“We have to try and survive,” Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo told reporters. “We train tomorrow and then we prepare to face Manchester City. Let’s see, but we will try and survive.”
Oddsmakers believe that the upcoming stretch may be too much for Wolverhampton to handle. Man City is a -260 away favorite at FanDuel Sportsbook, while Wolves are a +600 long shot to grab a win at home.
Mourinho: Congested Schedule ‘A Crime’
Both City and Wolves have to play again on Sunday, with Brighton, Everton, Watford, and Manchester United all playing on Saturday after their Boxing Day matches on Thursday.
It’s a situation that has Guardiola and other managers fuming, as their teams will need to rotate in fresh players in critical matchups.
“What I know is that less than 48 hours is not the perfect time. Christmas time is what it is in this country, and we adapt no problem,” Guardiola said. “The best way is to think about the next game. We’ll see, I don’t think about which players are going to play. You have to think about Sheffield United, it’s only 48 hours.”
Other managers chimed in with more pointed concerns about the post-Christmas schedule.
“It is absolutely not okay,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told reporters before his team earned a 4-0 win over Leicester on Thursday. “There’s no reason why more teams do not get more than 48 hours between Premier League games. None of the managers have a problem playing on Boxing Day, but playing on the 26th and 28th is a crime. This year we play 26th and 29th, and it’s like a holiday.”
Mourinho made similar comments after Tottenham came back to beat Brighton 2-1 at home on Boxing Day. Spurs now have to travel to Norwich for a Saturday match.
“I cannot imagine that these boys can play in less than 48 hours,” Mourinho told reporters. “It is a crime that they are going to play football again in 48 hours. It’s against every rule of physiology and biology.”