Pep Guardiola warns Premier League festive schedule 'going to kill' players
MANCHESTER -- Pep Guardiola has warned the Christmas schedule is "going to kill the players" and has told the Football Association they need to look at spacing out fixtures.
Manchester City restored their 15-point advantage at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win over Watford, but the victory was marred by a possible injury to Kyle Walker, who looked like he may have suffered a possible groin strain near the end of the match.
The game was City's fourth in 10 days and came just two days after a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace, when City lost Gabriel Jesus to a knee injury, and Guardiola says the FA need to protect the players from such busy schedules.
"We are going to check it out, [Kyle] might have a little problem, what everyone saw in the last weeks is how many injuries the players have. We are going to kill them," Guardiola told a news conference.
"The bosses they need to reflect -- it's not normal to play Dec. 31 and Jan. 2. I know the show must go on. We don't protect the players and everybody is here for the players, not the managers or the press conferences, or anyone else.
"Here in England you don't protect the players and that is a big mistake. You have to look for the quality or not the quantity.
"You can play every three, four or five days but not every two days because of what happened with Kyle Walker.
"I'm not saying change Boxing Day. Just see how many players have muscular injuries."
Guardiola confirmed that Gabriel Jesus was likely to be out for between four and six weeks after sustaining ligament damage in his left leg.
Kevin De Bruyne was one of the players to start his second game in two days and it came after he left the pitch on a stretcher after a bad tackle in the dying minutes of the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on Sunday.
The Belgium international's cross was turned in by Hornets defender Christian Kabasele for City's second after Raheem Sterling had put his team ahead after just 39 seconds.
"Kevin went out on the pitch in the afternoon and we spoke with him and he said he wanted to play. He had some pain but wanted to play, if he wants to play then I want him to play," Guardiola told a news conference.
"It says a lot. Nothing will change the opinion of his quality, everyone knows about his quality but he knows we will get a step forward if we win, towards being champion. Kevin wanted to play and his desire is what we have to follow."
City were also boosted by the return of defender John Stones, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, and David Silva, who has missed recent games for personal reasons.
Guardiola says the Spain international may miss some games in the future but says it up to Silva to decide when he is available.
"We are very happy David is back, we don't know how long but he made another exhibition -- he's essential, he showed how important he is for us.
"He's free to stay or leave, it depends, he wants to stay because he enjoys it but family is the most important thing in life," Guardiola said.
"It doesn't matter if we drop a lot of points because he's not here, I'd never push him. Some days he will be here some he will be out, it depends how his family is."
Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.