The World Cup gets underway in less than a month, but Pep Guardiola is paying no attention to the upcoming tournament.
In fact, when asked if he will take the World Cup into account when selecting his Manchester City teams over the next three weeks, he simply shook his head and smiled. And Guardiola went on to warn if any players are focussing on their international chances more than City’s remaining seven fixtures before the World Cup, they will not play.
City already have two injury concerns going into the World Cup, with England duo Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips facing a race against time to recover in time for the tournament, while John Stones has only just returned to training after injuring his hamstring a month ago.
With squads for the tournament in Qatar to be announced soon, players may be conscious of not picking up any further injuries in the last three weeks of the Premier League season before attention turns to the World Cup. However, Guardiola says the best chance of avoiding injury is to give 100 per cent focus to City, warning his players that he will smell if anyone is not fully committed and trying to save themselves for the World Cup.
“He will not play if I smell this. I’m really good at smelling this. Tactics not, but smelling I’m really good,” Guardiola said of any player holding back to avoid injury in the coming weeks.
“And what is going to happen is that they are going to play because they will get injured when they are not ready. When you are focused, you don’t get injured. Brighton is the only thing that matters to me, and the team.
“I know, but also they can lose their place in the World Cup by not selected or many reasons so they have to be focused every single until the end. It is just two weeks and if you are here, you will be perfect for the World Cup. Otherwise, you will be in trouble.”
Guardiola also insisted that his only focus is on beating Brighton on Saturday, adding: “I am just focussed about how good they are and our opponent. They didn’t score in the last four games but made 50 chances against Nottingham in the first half. I was really impressed with the way they played, and in games against Tottenham and at Anfield in the space of two or three days.
“I am going to speak with the team and say we have to be ready or we won’t get points against that team. They are one of the few teams that can take the ball off you and know exactly what they want to do with it.
“We have to be ready. The past is the past and already forgotten and of course we take the lesson on and off the pitch. Brighton is our only concern. I learned from my career as a manager that if your focus is always on the past you will lose in the present and the future, and this is the first step to drop points. Liverpool is history and Brighton is our dream.