LONDON: Pep Guardiola has warned Manchester City’s Premier League rivals that the champions are still well below their peak despite powering to a 2-0 win over Chelsea in the Community Shield.
Guardiola’s team wrapped up their pre-season preparations by sweeping aside Chelsea in the prestigious friendly at Wembley yesterday.
Sergio Agüero’s early opener and a second-half strike from the Argentina forward — goals that took his career haul for City to 201 — ensured the title favourites picked up where they left off in last season’s record-breaking campaign.
But ominously for Liverpool, Tottenham, and Manchester United — all hoping to dethrone City — Guardiola revealed his players are still well short of full fitness after only a handful of training sessions following the World Cup.
“We are satisfied, but still we are far away from the (best) physical condition. The players are in bad, bad conditions,” Guardiola said.
“We didn’t train a lot this week. We wanted to arrive fresh in this heat.”
“It’s complicated for all of them, but they are so competitive. It’s not easy to play after such a short time. My hat’s off to them.”
“We have seven days to train this week, and hopefully we can increase that level.”
“Now we focus on Arsenal. The training? Two sessions a day.”
Whatever their fitness issues, City looked slick in the sweltering London sunshine as they ran Chelsea ragged.
Guardiola’s men could have won by five and, ahead of their Premier League opener at Arsenal yesterday, the Spaniard plans to strengthen his already formidable squad even further.
Having signed Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez from Leicester earlier in pre-season, Guardiola wants a defensive midfielder to increase his options in that area.
Asked if City would swoop before Thursday’s transfer deadline, Guardiola said: “I don’t know. We are trying to find maybe one more.
“We don’t have players to substitute Fernandinho.”
“When we take decisions, it doesn’t depend on one victory or defeat.”
With Agüero becoming the first City player to break the 200-goal barrier, Guardiola saluted the club’s record scorer for the latest display of his predatory instincts.
“We were really impressed when he arrived for pre-season. Often he needs time for his physical condition. He arrived so sharp, so good,” he said.
“He feels free. It’s good news for us.”
While Agüero hogged the Wembley spotlight, there was also an eye-catching display from Phil Foden.
City’s 18-year-old midfielder has long been tipped for stardom and Guardiola believes the England Under-17 World Cup winner is on the brink of a breakthrough campaign.
“Phil is part of the first team. He played a few games last season, and now he is more mature. He did really well,” Guardiola said.
While Guardiola was all smiles, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri admitted the team’s hectic pre-season schedule has left his players unable to adapt to his tactics.
Sarri and company jetted off to Australia just days after his appointment to replace the fired Antonio Conte three weeks ago.
There has been little time to work on Sarri’s trademark attacking style and, with another friendly against Lyon in midweek, the Italian fears his team will be under-prepared going into their opener at Huddersfield on Saturday.
“In the second half there was a big difference between us and City from the physical point of view, so we have to work,” he said.
“We were not in control of the match. Our pre-season until now has been a bit crazy.”
Sarri has still not seen six of his players after the World Cup, including unsettled Belgian stars Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, who are both linked with Real Madrid.
They will report today, and Sarri added: “It’s a long way we have to work. It’s not very easy.”
“In the next week we have a friendly match again. I prefer in this moment to stay on the pitch with the players only for training.”