Pep Guardiola reveals Manchester City have been struck by ‘some new Covid cases’ ahead of huge clash with title rivals Chelsea, after 20 players and staff were forced into isolation before FA Cup win at Swindon
- Manchester City face Chelsea in massive Premier League game on Saturday
- Chelsea know they must win or risk Pep Guardiola’s side running away with title
- Spaniard admitted there have been more positive tests among his players
- He was full of praise for Thomas Tuchel and says he is constantly learning
Pep Guardiola insisted that Manchester City will continue playing on even if they cannot field any first-team stars on their bench due to absences.
The Premier League calendar is facing a fixture backlog, with clubs able to apply for postponements if they cannot call upon 13 established outfield players and a goalkeeper.
Twenty-one members of City’s bubble, including their manager, were forced into isolation last week and the champions have since recorded more Covid cases ahead of today’s title clash with Chelsea.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side take on Chelsea in Saturday’s early kick-off
City are running away in the title race and Chelsea know the significance of this game
There are, however, ample players available for the match as City attempt to stretch their lead at the top to 13 points.
Guardiola, who took his first training session in more than a week on Thursday, would not reveal the names of new cases or those returning.
But the 50-year-old did confirm that they have no intention of asking for fixtures to be put back as today’s opposite number, Thomas Tuchel, revealed he would be ‘angry’ if clubs were bending the rules amid injuries and the Africa Cup of Nations.
‘If we have 11 or 12 players, it’s enough, we play,’ Guardiola said. ‘We have Cole Palmer, James McAtee and other players we try to play.
Phil Foden and Co are 10 points clear of Chelsea and 13 would surely see them out of sight
‘In many cases we had just 12 first-team players available plus the keeper and we played. We had 13 or 14 first-team players in the FA Cup. We had 11 players against Aston Villa plus the keeper, the rest were academy. We played.
‘The other clubs, I don’t know. Is it just Covid or injuries? Injuries happen all the time.’
City actually named 14 first-team players under Premier League rules at Villa in December as Palmer and McAtee had previously made appearances this season.
Phil Foden and Jack Grealish were on the bench, although both would ordinarily not have made the trip due to injuries.
Guardiola insists City are not an exception and struggle with the virus the same as others
Guardiola denied that City have profited from Covid in the title race. Tuchel said that they had ‘dealt better’ with the situation and suggested City have been ‘lucky’. But Guardiola stressed: ‘We are in the same situation as all other clubs. Are you saying that here in Manchester we are the smartest, that Covid doesn’t like to come here to visit us?
‘We had injuries, we had Covid. What can I say? If they believe we were lucky, OK we were. If they believe it’s the reason, then maybe. Sometimes it’s the money we have, sometimes it’s Covid. I don’t know.’