Pep Guardiola has responded to his title rivals’ claims over Manchester City being fortunate with its number of COVID-19 cases.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel and Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk have both commented in recent days on the relative “luck” of the reigning Premier League champion.
When those thoughts were put to Guardiola in a Friday press conference ahead of a showdown with Chelsea, the Catalan coach said: “We had injuries, we had COVID.
“Maybe we didn’t say which ones, how many. [Some of] the players wanted respect, so the club decided to not do it.
“We had a lot of players with COVID. A lot of people, backroom staff, with COVID. And in the biggest season we had a lot of incredibly tough injuries to our players.
“So what can I say? They believe we were lucky? Okay, we were lucky!
“What can I say? The pandemic is all around the world, everywhere. We are exposed, every single day, every single minute. We are not an exception.
“If they believe that is the reason why [City have pulled clear in the title race], then maybe. Maybe.
“Sometimes it’s the money that we have, sometimes it’s COVID. So I don’t know, maybe.”
Guardiola on Premier League postponement rules
City has been in rampant form, winning its last 11 Premier League games to surge to the top of the table. Indeed, Guardiola’s men now have a 10-point lead over Chelsea.
Meanwhile, the Premier League has been rocked by a COVID-19 crisis, with mass criticism over the lack of clarity around how many absentees it takes for a postponement.
Guardiola is no clearer than anybody else over the rules, but he is not in the business of asking for games to be called off: “We had 13 players in the first team for the last game, in the FA Cup.
“The previous one, we had 11. At Aston Villa, 11 players.
“This decision is for the Premier League, not for us. For the other clubs, I don’t know the situation.
“We try to play. We have 11 or 12 players? Enough, we play. We have Cole Palmer, we have [James] McAtee. We try to play.
“We never ask [for the games to be postponed]. I don’t know what counts — if it’s just COVID, or injuries.
“But injuries happen all the time, so I don’t know the standards or the rule of the Premier League, when it’s called off. In many cases, we had just 12 players available, and we played.”
Pep returns vs. Chelsea
Guardiola himself missed the FA Cup 3rd Round victory over Swindon last weekend, as he tested positive for the virus.
Revealing how many training sessions he has taken since, he was in a jovial mood: “One. It’s good news for the players! We will play great tomorrow, you will see.
“The plan was done. We were in touch by Zoom. We’ve known each other for six years. Just with one eye contact, we know exactly what we have to do.
“So no problem. Of course, the players behaved well on Sunday. I’ve come back as a manager, but if I’m not here, I don’t play, so in the end it’s not important.”