Pep Guardiola’s response to Thomas Tuchel and Virgil van Dijk at the expense of Manchester City’s Covid Gibbs

Pep Guardiola has issued a harsh response to rivals’ claims that Manchester City’s dominance of the Premier League is partly due to coronavirus cases and infections. City will be 13 points clear of second-placed Chelsea if they beat the European champions at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said this week that City “did not suffer from Covid as we did” and Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk noted the Premier League champions had been helped “significantly” by better luck with fewer cases and injury problems. But Guardiola has responded sarcastically to the allegations and put them firmly in the same category as accusations that City’s success over the past decade is due only to the money they have been able to spend.

“So they [Chelsea and Liverpool] I think that’s the reason why then maybe. Sometimes it’s the money we have, sometimes it’s Covid. I do not know. said the city manager, tongue in cheek. City had seven players and 14 staff, including Guardiola and Juanma Lillo, their second player, to isolate when they faced Swindon Town in the FA Cup last Friday.

The manager said the club has since reported “some new cases”, although most players have returned. Guardiola – who has only had one training session since returning from isolation and will be in the technical area against Chelsea – has been furious over claims that City were “lucky” when they arrived at Covid and injuries this season.

A large number of first-team players were not available due to the Corona virus this season, and City also suffered injuries to a number of prominent players, including De Bruyne, Foden, Stones and Ferran Torres.

“I say what I said before – the situation is all over the world. We had injuries, we have Covid,” Guardiola said. “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 staff in the backroom 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 the virus is everywhere. We are exposed every minute and day to get it, and we are no exception.”

The Premier League has been postponing matches in cases where clubs do not have at least 13 off-field players and a goalkeeper, but Guardiola insisted his side would be willing to field only 11 or 12 first-team players.

“We’re trying to play,” he said. “If we have 11 or 12 players, that’s enough, we’ll play. We have Cole Palmer, James McCate and other players trying to play. We have enough players.” I don’t know what matters. Is it just covid or injuries? Injuries happen all the time, so I don’t know the Premier League rules when matches are canceled – that’s why. In many cases we only had 12 first-team players plus the goalkeeper and we played.”

Guardiola said he is proud of how far City have progressed at this stage and that it is down to the consistency of the team. “The fact that we are here because we have been consistent in the most difficult months, November and especially December, how we overcame the most difficult situations we faced in the team and the problems we had with injuries and Covid,” he said. Guardiola said City’s 10-point lead was even more impressive given the strength of Chelsea and Liverpool.

He added, “If you told me a month ago that we would be in that position, with a difference of 10 points, I would say it is impossible because I did not expect that they would give up those points.”

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