‘The team doesn’t wait’: Guardiola warns Grealish to find rhythm for FA Cup clash

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jack Grealish;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jack Grealish</a> will need to find form fast if Pep Guardiola starts him against <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Luton;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Luton</a> in the FA Cup fifth round.</span><span>Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters</span>

Pep Guardiola warned Jack Grealish that he needs to hit the ground running if he returns to action in Tuesday evening’s FA Cup fifth round tie at Luton.

The Manchester City coach admitted that Grealish did not start the season in peak form and, though the winger is now close to that level, he will have to find his rhythm instantly following injury.

The 28-year-old picked up a groin problem in the 3-1 win at Copenhagen two weeks ago but is now fit. Grealish has had an uneven campaign, managing three goals and two assists in 26 appearances in all competitions.

Related: Newcastle playing for their futures in Blackburn FA Cup tie, warns Howe

Guardiola said: “He started a little bit late [for form] but in the last month Jack is back in terms of many things, that’s why he played an important game in the Champions League in Copenhagen. Unfortunately he had a setback [the injury] in 10-15 minutes.

“He played lots of minutes last season and this [season] less in the beginning – it’s the way he has performed. That’s the difference. I said from day one: ‘We need him, he has a special quality for our team.’ It depends on him. Hopefully he can do a good last three months.”

Guardiola warned that Grealish – like all players – will have to hit the ground running. “I cannot give three or four games for them to get their rhythm, they have to [find] the rhythm if playing 90 or 20 minutes,” he said. “At a high level, the team doesn’t wait.”

The City manager confirmed Grealish could start at Luton. “It’s possible. Normally when we play Saturday to Tuesday I don’t decide the line up and everything [in advance]. I will see the training today [Monday],” he said.

On Sunday Liverpool beat Chelsea to claim the Carabao Cup and ensure Jürgen Klopp, who is resigning as the manager in the summer, will end his final season with at least one trophy. Guardiola is in an eighth year at City, his contract expiring at the end of next term. While he is yet to decide his future, Guardiola was asked if the departure of Klopp, who has been Guardiola’s main rival, could persuade him to prolong his tenure.

“No. Of course Liverpool will hire a good manager,” the 53-year-old said. “I [also] see Arsenal, what is going to happen with Manchester United [Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s new regime], and Tottenham will be stronger, Aston Villa [too]. Newcastle – next season I am pretty sure they will be better because they will be used to playing every three days [due to European competition].”

Josko Gvardiol is also back in training following injury while Oscar Bobb, who has impressed out wide in Grealish’s absence, has extended his City contract until 2029. The 20-year-old has made 16 appearances so far this season, and scored the last-minute winner in the 3-2 victory at Newcastle last month.