Pep Guardiola believes football will experience a rise in Covid cases again as a result of next month’s international break but has indicated he will not prevent any Manchester City players from travelling.
At the start of this month Fifa announced that clubs were not obliged to release players for internationals in countries that require a quarantine of five or more days on return. For elite sportspeople in the UK a 10-day quarantine applies after visiting red list countries such as Portugal and all of South America.
This means City could order Bernardo Silva, João Cancelo, Rúben Dias, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Agüero to remain at home but Guardiola said City were not currently minded to do so even though those players would then miss the game at Leicester on 3 April. “The players are going to the national team,” the manager said.
Positive Covid tests in the Premier League rose during and after last November’s international break. In December and early January the virus caused significant disruption to the Premier League and EFL fixture list, with an outbreak at City causing their match at Everton on 28 December to be postponed. Since Aston Villa’s home match with Everton on 14 January, no top-flight game has been called off because of coronavirus. Guardiola was reminded of this and asked whether cases could rise again during the upcoming international fortnight.
“Hopefully not but the only way to be protected [best] is to stay at home,” he said. “The players are going to national teams and it’s difficult to control it, so it is going to rise unfortunately. I would love to say or to guess it’s not going to happen but from experience it happened in two or three waves already worldwide, so if you move you take a risk to be contaminated.”
Guardiola said there had been no discussions between clubs and national federations regarding the issue. “No, we’ve not had a letter or advice about it. I think the Premier League, all leagues, [should be] concerned. I know the national federations need to play– this is normal – but the reason why there were a lot of cases in the Premier League and now there are no cases is because people don’t move. The moment you take planes and go other places everything can happen.”
Kevin De Bruyne has recovered from a hamstring injury and is in the squad for Wednesday’s trip to Everton. Ilkay Gündogan’s groin problem means he is unavailable but Guardiola said the midfielder should return soon.