Pep Guardiola has dismissed claims by Thomas Tuchel and Virgil van Dijk that Manchester City are the Premier League’s runaway leaders because they have suffered less from Covid.
In an apparent sign that Guardiola does not believe City get the recognition they deserve, he noted how at other times money has been cited to explain his team’s success.
City host Tuchel’s Chelsea on Saturday leading the European champions by 10 points. They are a further one ahead of Liverpool, for whom Van Dijk plays, though Jürgen Klopp’s team have a game in hand. Guardiola was asked about the comments of Tuchel and the centre-back.
“If they believe it’s the reason why then maybe,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the money that we have, sometimes it’s Covid. I don’t know. I say what I said before: the situation is [the same with the virus] all around the world. We had injuries, we had Covid. Maybe we don’t say which players – out of respect the club don’t do it – but we had a lot of players and backroom staff with Covid and at the beginning of the season we had a lot of tough injuries with our players.
“So what can I say? If they believe we were lucky, OK we were lucky. We are exposed every single minute and day to getting it and so are no exception.”
Tuchel said: “They did not suffer from Covid like we did. This is a huge difference.” Last week Van Dijk said: “City got through the month of December particularly well – they had few injuries and few corona cases and that helps enormously.”
Guardiola is out of isolation after contracting the illness but City have new cases, though he did not specify whether these are players. “We have some new cases,” he said. “They want privacy so I cannot tell you [how many].”
His side have won their past 11 league matches. “The fact we are here is because we were consistent in the toughest months – November and especially December– where there are many games and how we overcame the toughest situations that we had in the squad and problems with injuries and Covid,” he said.
“We got results when we played really good [but] when we didn’t play good, eg at Arsenal, we were able to win. Saying that, my opinion of Liverpool and Chelsea doesn’t change due to the fact that right now we have this advantage.
“They are more than excellent teams. One is the champion of Europe, the other has been our biggest rival for four seasons and they maintained their quality. If you had told me one month ago we would be in this position – 10 points clear – I would say it was impossible because I couldn’t expect they would drop those points. But football changes so quick.”