Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has expressed concerns about the state of the pitch at the Etihad Stadium.
City seem to have had few problems playing at home this season given they are 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League and chasing an unprecedented quadruple.
Guardiola, however, fears the surface is starting to show signs of wear and tear ahead of the most critical phase of the campaign and even fears injuries if it worsens.
Asked how much of a problem this was, Guardiola said at a press conference: “A lot. They (the groundstaff) are working a lot, we are trying to find a solution, but the grass is not good.
“I know the weather conditions here in England are tough, but there are stadiums where the grass is good.
“We were in London against Arsenal, we were in Anfield, Old Trafford and the grass was better than ours.
“We were in Budapest in the Champions League and the grass was incredible, a red carpet. It was amazing and our grass still isn’t good. And we need it.”
City relaid the pitch last spring during the coronavirus-enforced shutdown, but plans for a first full rebuild from the foundations in a decade were shelved due to the uncertain length of that break and the shortened off-season. It is now hoped it will go ahead this summer.
In the meantime, with a break in the ground’s fixture schedule, the pitch was reseeded after Wednesday’s game against Southampton. That was the 21st home match of the season and the fourth in the past fortnight. There was also a run of four games in the space of 10 days in January.
City now do not have another home fixture this month. They are away at Fulham on Saturday and Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Borussia Monchengladbach has been switched to Budapest because of Covid-19 restrictions. They then travel to Everton in the FA Cup quarter-finals before the international break.
Guardiola feels a better pitch would produce better football, while, on a more serious note, he fears injuries if it deteriorates further.
He said: “I am not a greenkeeper. Maybe the quality of football is good enough and has destroyed the grass. I don’t know.
“We have to try to find a way that, (for) as much time as possible from October/November until March, the grass can be better, as good as possible.
“We need it to avoid injuries, for our football to be better, for many reasons. I’m pretty sure the club, like it always has done and always does, will do the best to find a solution.”
Guardiola’s immediate concern is combatting a Fulham side who are building momentum as they battle to avoid relegation. Scott Parker’s side have lost just one of their last seven games to give themselves a strong chance of escaping the bottom three.
Guardiola said: “I was really impressed when they played here in terms of their physicality, their ideas, their courage, defensive organisation, pace up front.
“Their stadium is always difficult. The grass is not in good condition – quite similar to ours. A real tough opponent. Even in the games they didn’t have success they created more chances.
“The way they play is always positive. It’s a big challenge for us.”
Guardiola sees former England midfielder Parker, 40, as one of a bright crop of new managers.
He said: “In English football there are some incredibly good managers with Mr (Graham) Potter from Brighton and with Scott at Fulham.
“This is my fifth season here in England and I never saw the teams from the mid-to-lower table with quality of such a high standard.
“Many of them have courage to play. They do this in the beginning and, even if it is not going well, they continue to do it. I’ve a feeling the new generation of managers have this quality.
“At the end the results come. That’s what I admire the most.”
One area Guardiola feels he may have met his match in Parker is in the fashion stakes.
Guardiola is well known for his sartorial choices, but the coat Parker wore for last week’s win at Liverpool attracted plenty of attention.
“He’s younger, he has hair,” Guardiola joked. “He’s better than me, definitely. I accept a draw against him!”