Pep Guardiola took a swipe at the Arsenal board on Monday, further underlining Manchester City’s displeasure with the London club.
City believe the Gunners were ringleaders of the so-called ‘Hateful Eight’ cabal who attempted to obstruct the ultimately successful Court of Arbitration for Sport appeal, as revealed by Sportsmail.
Guardiola, whose side lost Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, made a thinly veiled dig before Tuesday’s trip to Watford.
‘The opponents always deserve my respect and credit,’ he said. ‘Arsenal, I have all the respect for what they are on the pitch, not much off the pitch – but on the pitch, a lot.’
There is also understood to be consternation at City with the way in which Arsenal recruited former assistant manager, Mikel Arteta, last December.
Guardiola also queried last week whether Arsenal would back Arteta sufficiently in the transfer market. The Catalan has bigger issues right now, however, with the European date against Real Madrid drawing nearer following two meaningless Premier League games.
City’s players will not be afforded any time off before the home Champions League last 16 second leg with the LaLiga champions on August 7. They hold a one-goal lead from the Bernabeu and by contrast, Zinedine Zidane is able to give his players rest this week given the Spanish season finished earlier.
‘We’ll have two days (off) after Watford but after Watford we’ll have two weeks of training sessions,’ Guardiola said.
‘We are going to try to maintain our rhythm in our sessions. We are going to find a specific way to play against Madrid.
‘They have no (Sergio) Ramos, so we’ll see how (Eder) Militao and (Raphael) Varane have joined together in their games together. It’s an advantage that we have more time to prepare specific things about them.
‘We are excited and optimistic against Madrid. If we play at a decent level we’ll have our chance, if not we’ll be out. Saturday was not good enough.’