‘Sometimes money, sometimes Covid’ – Guardiola fires back at Tuchel and Van Dijk

Pep Guardiola has responded to claims from his title rivals that Manchester City are lucky with their number of COVID-19 cases.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel and Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk have commented in recent days on the relative “luck” of the reigning Premier League champions.

When those thoughts were put to Guardiola at a press conference on Friday before a clash with Chelsea, the Catalan manager 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 against it.

“We had a lot of players with COVID. Lots of people, backroom staff, with COVID. And in the biggest season we had a lot of incredibly tough injuries for our players.

“So what can I say? Do you think we were lucky? Well, we were lucky!

“What can I say? The pandemic is all over the world, everywhere. We are exposed, every day, every minute. We are no exception.

“If they think that’s the reason why [City have pulled clear in the title race], then perhaps. Maybe.

“Sometimes it’s the money we have, sometimes it’s COVID. So I don’t know, maybe.”

Guardiola on Premier League postponement rules

City have been in unbridled form, winning their last 11 Premier League games to climb top of the table. In fact, Guardiola’s men now have a 10-point lead over Chelsea.

Meanwhile, the Premier League has been rocked by a COVID-19 crisis, with massive criticism over a lack of clarity about how many absences are needed for a postponement.

Guardiola is no clearer than anyone about the rules, but he is not in the business of asking for games to be abandoned: “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.

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“This decision is for the Premier League, not for us. For the other clubs, I don’t know the situation.

“We try to play. Do 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 rules of the Premier League, when it’s cancelled. In many cases, we only had 12 players available and we played.”

Pep returns against Chelsea

Guardiola himself missed the FA Cup third round win over Swindon last weekend as he tested positive for the virus.

Revealing how many training sessions he has taken since then, he was in a jovial mood: “One. This is good news for gamers! We’re going to play very well tomorrow, you’ll see.

“The plan was done. We communicate by Zoom. We’ve known each other for six years. With just one eye contact, we know exactly what we have to do.

“So there’s no problem. That’s right, the players behaved well on Sunday. I’m back as coach, but if I’m not here, I don’t play, so in the end it’s not important.”