World Cup 2014: Manchester City defy Roy Hodgson’s demand that England players rest before tournament

Manchester City are to defy the request by England manager Roy Hodgson that members of his World Cup squad are not involved in post-season friendlies before the tournament by taking Joe Hart and James Milner to Abu Dhabi later this month.

Hodgson has set his stall out against the new practice of clubs filling the period of time up to 19 May, when Fifa stipulates international sides have precedence over the players, with friendlies, and repeated that message this week.

There has been broad agreement from the Premier League, although it is understood City will take Hart and Milner, two stalwarts of Hodgson’s squad, to Abu Dhabi as part of the build-up for the friendly against the United Arab Emirates’ side Al Ain on 15 May. The pair are not expected to play in the game.

The Football Association had hoped that the week, after the end of the Premier League programme and leading up the FA Cup final, would be kept free for the players to relax before they embark on the first pre-tournament training camp in Portugal.

As it stands, the Abu Dhabi trip is compulsory for all City players, to mark the opening of the 25,000-capacity Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, in the home country of the club’s owner Sheikh Mansour.

Manchester City are taking Joe Hart and other players to Abu Dhabi later this month, against Roy Hodgson's request Manchester City are taking Joe Hart and other players to Abu Dhabi later this month, against Roy Hodgson's request (Getty Images)
Asked about the situation this week, Hodgson said that he had assurances from Liverpool that their World Cup contingent would not be playing a post-season game against Shamrock Rovers on 14 May at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Hodgson said: “What you’re telling me about Manchester City is news to me. But the bottom line is that we have no control over it.

“I’ve done what I can do. I’m the England manager and I’ve said to the clubs that, as England manager, I think it best – and don’t forget that they’ve got to come back to their clubs at the end of the World Cup – that they have a week away from football at the end of the season.

“I want them to relax and clear their minds so that from 19 May they can settle down and put a lot of thought and a lot of focus and physicality into trying to win a the World Cup,” Hodgson added. “But if the clubs say: ‘We’re not interested in that, we want to do something else’,  then there’s nothing I can do about it.

Manchester City claim James Milner will not play in the game in Abu Dhabi Manchester City claim James Milner will not play in the game in Abu Dhabi (Getty Images)
“I don’t have the right or the authority to tell clubs what to do at the end of the season. What I do have the authority is to keep the players from 19 May because the Fifa regulations say so.”

For City’s part, they say that the hotel and weather in Abu Dhabi will be conducive to relaxation and that there is no question of the players themselves playing in  the game.

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