Guardiola says players are ready to push on despite Rodri’s plea for a rest

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Rodri;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Rodri</a> moves away from <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Real Madrid;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Real Madrid</a>’s <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jude Bellingham;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jude Bellingham</a> in their quarter-final first leg in Spain.</span><span>Photograph: Bagu Blanco/Pressinphoto/Shutterstock</span>

Pep Guardiola says this season has been “one of the toughest” but that Manchester City’s experiences of winning trophies will negate tiredness within the squad, after Rodri admitted to needing a rest.

City host relegation-threatened Luton on Saturday, giving them the chance to move top, for 23 hours at least, for the first time since early October, as they attempt to repeat last season’s treble. Guardiola’s side sit third, a point behind Arsenal and Liverpool, who each play on Sunday.

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“We have done it [before] and know exactly what we have to do,” Guardiola said. “The players will be ready. There is no doubt about that. We know what we are playing for. They know how tough it has been this season for many reasons, maybe one of the toughest seasons we have faced for sure. We know exactly internally how difficult it has been in many, many moments this season and we were still there.”

It is a pivotal week for City, who have the Champions League quarter-final second leg at home to Real Madrid on Wednesday, having drawn the opening match 3-3. If City win, they will not have a free midweek before the Premier League season ends.

“If a player doesn’t want to play then he’s not going to play: simple.” Guardiola said of Rodri’s fatigue. “We will speak and I’m pretty sure Rodri will be ready for tomorrow. I know him because after the game he was tired because it was tough the game against Real Madrid. He came from Crystal Palace and it was really tough as well, but I know him. He will arrive and say: ‘I’m fine, I’m ready.’”

Guardiola brushed off the form of Erling Haaland, who has scored once in his past seven appearances for City and Norway. The manager, asked whether he was happy with the striker’s performances, said: “A lot. He helps us to make more spaces in the areas and his contribution has been exceptional since the day he arrived last season. We scored 11 goals in the last three games. And he helped us score some of them [by] creating lots of spaces for the other ones to score the goals. I saw his face after the game in the locker room – he was extremely happy.”