Pep Guardiola has explained how Phil Foden is finding it difficult to move on from an ankle injury due to Manchester City’s intense schedule.
Foden’s start to the season was delayed after he returned from Euro 2020 with England, but the midfielder contributed three goals and an assist in his first four Premier League starts.
An ankle knock has since disrupted his momentum, however. Although Foden added another assist against Watford last time out in the league, he has been restricted to just 688 minutes – ranking 12th among City players.
Following the Watford game, the 21-year-old lasted only 45 minutes against RB Leipzig in the Champions League before he was substituted as a precaution.
Foden was set to be assessed again on Friday after Guardiola faced the media to acknowledge there was no opportunity for a break, with City in the middle of a December that will see them play eight times in all.
“When you have an injury in your ankle and two months of holiday, you will recover incredibly well – but when you have every three days games, you will have niggles,” Guardiola said.
“He still has these niggles and has to live with that. But every time, he is better and better.
“I don’t think [he would want a break]. He will dictate and say how he feels after games. At this moment, in December, with this amount of games, and knowing Phil, he will want to fight to be there.
“So we will see how he feels. We will see game by game.”
We’ve got Guardiola! https://t.co/ma3tARhqdM
— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 10, 2021
Foden may not be City’s only injury worry by the end of the month, but Guardiola acknowledges there is little prospect of a packed festive fixture list easing in years to come.
“It’s good, it’s historic,” he said. “I like to play in winter time. My words are not going to change anything.
“When you play with just two days’ rest between Christmas time and New Year’s Eve, there is no time to recover for the players.
“But every season for the past 20, 30, 40 years, we are discussing but there is no change. So we just adapt, adjust, pray the players don’t get injured and go forward.”
City have already won 31 Premier League games in 2021, giving them every chance of beating Liverpool’s top-flight calendar-year record of 33 in 1982.
Their next test is against Wolves, who did the double over City two seasons ago and pushed title rivals Liverpool close last time out.
While this fixture has the highest goals-per-game ratio among those played 60 times or more in English league football (3.83 – 437 goals in 114 meetings), Wolves matches have this season seen fewer goals than any other Premier League side (25 – 12 scored, 13 conceded).
“It’s not just about the game against Liverpool,” Guardiola said. “When you have played 15 games and you can take a look at goals scored, goals conceded – [Wolves’] balance is so stable, few on both sides.
“It’s quite similar – we played against Wolves last year, always tight, tight games. We lost a few, when we won, always tight.
“It has always been a difficult, difficult game, for the quality they have, for the structure, the pace they up front, the set-pieces, the personality, the character, the players, good keepers.
“They are up there. They are doing an incredible season so far. We know it, but at the same time, we are in a good position to continue our run in the Premier League.”