Pep Guardiola fears Manchester City injuries before ‘crazy’ fixtures

• Manager ‘prays’ for international players to return fit
• Bernardo Silva calls on team to ‘make something special’

Pep Guardiola is praying none of his Manchester City players return from international duty injured and feels those overlooked by their country will benefit from a rest before a potentially decisive run of games for the team.

Sergio Agüero and Aymeric Laporte have not been called up by Argentina and France respectively while David Silva will also be among those who remain with the first-team group during the coming fortnight and take part in a light training programme.

City face Fulham at the end of this month in the first of at least 10 games across a six-week period, including a Champions League quarter-final and an FA Cup semi-final, the latter secured with a 3-2 comeback victory against Swansea on Saturday.

Guardiola has already urged Gareth Southgate to withdraw John Stones from the England squad because he is unfit, while several players missed City’s passage to the semi-finals of the Cup because of injury, including Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and the captain, Vincent Kompany.

“They have to go there, play with their national team, enjoy, help their own national teams but hopefully they will come back fit like they are now,” Guardiola said. “You pray they come back fit. That is what I want. It’s crazy, the fixtures we have in April. That is why we need everybody.

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“The players who play incredible have to sustain that level and the players who need to increase have to improve because we need it. Everyone is going to play, John [Stones], Kevin [De Bruyne] and Benjamin [Mendy]. And [we need] all the players to come back [fit].”

Bernardo Silva is one of 14 City players called up to represent their country over the next two weeks. Silva, who recently signed a contract extension until 2025, kick-started the fightback in Wales on Saturday and said the manner of the victory showed the spirit in a team that could yet go on to win an unprecedented quadruple.

“You cannot only win games four- or five-nil and there are games where you have to show your character,” the Portuguese playmaker said. “Obviously we cannot be perfect in all moments, I think so far this season, to still be in the four competitions – three left, because one we’ve won already – it’s pretty good, it means we’ve been doing a pretty good job, but we still have to improve a few things and we’ll try to do it.

“I think all the players feel that this season can be special. Last season was special in the way we won the Premier League, this season can be special because we’ve already won one competition, we’re still playing for three. We can win three or lose all of them as well, so it will be very tough. We know that the last month and a half will be very tough, it will be crucial, to make something special and to try to write an important page in the history of this club. I think we’ve been doing quite well and we’ll try to keep the momentum.”