Pep Guardiola insisted that Manchester City had not been ‘more fortunate’ than other Premier League clubs with Covid-19, although Thomas Tuchel believed it was a determining factor in the title race.
Ahead of Chelsea’s visit to the Etihad at lunchtime on Saturday, Tuchel said the “biggest difference” between his team and City is that the champions “have dealt better with injuries and the Covid situation”.
“Maybe it’s lucky, maybe they do it better, but they have fewer injuries to the key players, fewer days and weeks where they miss them. They haven’t suffered from Covid like we did. That’s a big difference,” Tuchel said. .
City were the only first division club to avoid postponing a match during the Christmas period due to the Covid outbreak, either within their camp or within their opponents’ camp, but they are still affected by the virus.
Phil Foden, Rodri, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kyle Walker are confirmed to be affected, while John Stones has also missed much of the festive programme, and Kevin De Bruyne tested positive in November.
A widespread outbreak in City last week led Guardiola to self-isolation, with his assistant Rodolfo Borrell taking charge of the 3-0 FA Cup third round win away at Swindon Town.
When Tuchel’s comments were shown to Guardiola during the pre-match press conference on Friday, the City manager replied: “What do I say? I say what I said before – the situation is all over the world.
“We had injuries, we had Covid. We may not say which players – out of respect [to those players]The club doesn’t do that – but we had a lot of players and back-staff with Covid and at the start of the season we had a lot of tough injuries with our players. So what can I say?
“If they thought we were lucky, well, we were lucky. Thank you. What can I say? The epidemic is spreading all over the world and everywhere there is the virus. Every minute and every day we are exposed to it and we are no exception.
“If they think that’s the reason, maybe. Maybe. Sometimes it’s the money we have, sometimes it’s Covid. I don’t know. Maybe.”
Guardiola will return to the Etihad training center on Saturday after ending his self-isolation period, but he said that City had suffered new cases of Covid-19 among his team since the outbreak last week.
However, Guardiola said City had not considered asking for a delay. Premier League rules allow teams to apply for a match rearrangement if they have fewer than 14 first-team players including a goalkeeper available.
“We were 13 or 14 first-team players in the last FA Cup game. We were 11 players against Aston Villa plus the goalkeeper, the rest were academics. We played. We didn’t postpone it. The other clubs, no I don’t know the situation.
“We’re trying to play. If we have 11 or 12 players, that’s enough, we’ll play. We have Cole Palmer, James Makati and other players trying to play. We have enough players. If we have eight or nine players … I don’t know what matters.. Is it just covid or injuries?
“Injuries happen all the time so I don’t know the rules of the Premier League when it gets canceled or canceled for that reason. In many cases we only had 12 first-team players plus the goalkeeper and we played.”