Pep blasts 'unacceptable' schedule after Cup win

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola lashed out at the FA Cup schedule after his side reached the final by beating Chelsea 1-0 on Saturday, three days after their treble bid was ended by defeat on penalties by Real Madrid in the Champions League.

A late goal by Bernardo Silva got holders City over the line, although they rode their luck in a 1-0 win over Chelsea, who were punished for not taking the numerous chances they created.

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City, who were without fatigued striker Erling Haaland, lacked their usual zip, and despite reaching another final, Guardiola was clearly agitated at his side’s lack of recovery time after the heartache of Wednesday’s Champions League exit.

“It’s unacceptable to let us play today,” Guardiola told the BBC.

It’s impossible, for the health of the players. It’s not normal. It’s unacceptable — 120 minutes, the emotions of Madrid, the way we lose, honestly.

“I know this country is special [with the FA Cup], but it’s for the health of the players. I don’t understand how we survived today.”

Guardiola could not fathom why City’s game against Chelsea was not scheduled for Sunday rather than Manchester United’s semifinal clash with second-tier Coventry City, since neither of those clubs had to play a match in midweek.

“The only power I have I say here. Why don’t we play tomorrow? Chelsea, Manchester United, Coventry didn’t play midweek,” Guardiola added.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss also praised the mentality of his players for finding a way to win.

“What they did today is one of the greatest things I have ever seen from a group of players after 120 minutes of football on Wednesday,” he said in a news conference.

“I just want to protect my players. It’s common sense. I’m not asking for something special or privilege.”

Guardiola’s stance was supported by Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta. Arsenal, who also lost in the Champions League in midweek, beat Wolves 2-0 later on Saturday to return to the top of the Premier League, a point above City but having played a game more.

“It’s not about us, Pep or myself, it’s about the well-being of the players,” Arteta, Guardiola’s former assistant at Man City said in a news conference. “When you compete in European competition, every team has to compete in the same way.

“You cannot have a team that hasn’t played for seven days, or three days before, and has more recovery time and then you have to play in the Premier League and the FA Cup. It is not right. If you look in any angle, it’s not right.

“If you want to protect, let’s talk about the players and the protagonists. Let’s protect the players and do everything we can to give them the maximum time to help them recover and perform and do the show that they do every week.”

The exit to Madrid ended City’s hopes of a second straight treble, but Silva’s goal ensured they are still very much on course to secure the Premier League/FA Cup double.

“We’re happy with another final and another chance to win a trophy,” said Silva, who made amends for his miss in the penalty shootout.

“We’ve done it throughout the years many times. The way this team reacts to disappointments and defeats is always in the best way. Today again the team showed a lot of character.”

Information from ESPN’s James Olley and Reuters contributed to this report.

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