MANCHESTER — Pep Guardiola has said it would be “ridiculous” to rest players for Manchester City’s clash with West Ham on Sunday despite the Manchester derby against United next weekend looming.
City face a hectic schedule, with their 10 games over 30 days including a midweek trip to Ukraine for their final Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk.
West Ham have not won in the Premier League since September, but Guardiola warned his players they could not afford to believe that would mean an easy game even after a club-record 19 successive victories.
“I can’t deny we’re in better form than West Ham and have better results,” the manager told a news conference.
“The last 12 or 13 games [in the Premier League] we won, but they didn’t win for long and they don’t get results. So we are better, we can’t deny that.
“But tomorrow we start again, and I was a player — I trust the players to be professional. They have experience there and they have a manager with experience to handle that experience.
“I can’t think it’s already done or it’ll be easy. I can’t think, it’s West Ham, we can make six or seven changes and the second team is going to play. I think it’s ridiculous.”
He said City “have to respect” West Ham, now under the management of David Moyes, adding that meant they needed “to be serious and play the strongest team possible.”
City were troubled by Southampton’s aerial threat in Wednesday’s dramatic 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium and had also conceded from a corner in the previous game against Huddersfield Town.
Guardiola said he expected the Hammers to play in a similar way, trying to catch out his side through counter-attacks and set pieces.
“We try to analyse how they’ll play,” he said. “I can imagine the game where they defend like Southampton or Huddersfield — provoke long balls, win fouls, ball in the box, [Andy] Carroll scores. Carroll in the box is better than our central defenders.
“That can happen in football. One counter attack and we miss [the tackle] and get a red card. You can lose the game. If everything happens normally, you have the chance to win the game. You never know.
“It’s why it’s better to be calm and prepare well because it’s the same three points, United and West Ham. It counts the same.
“United is not six points. That’s why it’s better to be focused on West Ham, and we’ll see what happens.”
Jonathan is ESPN FC’s Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.