Pep Guardiola has hit back at suggestions from Jurgen Klopp that Manchester City benefited from a two-week break over Christmas due to the coronavirus pandemic.
City had a game at Everton postponed on December 28 after a number of their staff, including five players, tested positive for Covid-19.
As a result of the cancellation, Guardiola’s side had a gap of eight days between their game against Newcastle on Boxing Day and their trip to Chelsea on January 3.
Those matches came early in the current nine-game winning sequence which has propelled City from mid-table in the Premier League to three points clear at the top with a game in hand.
Champions Liverpool have experienced a downturn in fortunes since that time, slipping from top to fourth – seven points behind City having played a game more – prior to Sunday’s clash between the two sides at Anfield.
Liverpool manager Klopp raised the issue of City’s break in fixtures in his pre-match press conference as he spoke about the levels of fatigue in his squad.
“We didn’t have a break,” said the German. “I think City had a two-week break for Covid reasons. It’s really tough, it’s a tough season.”
City have pointed out that the only days off they had as a result of the cancellation were the Monday of the intended game at Goodison Park and the planned recovery day afterwards.
Manager Guardiola said: “He made a mistake. It was two months off, or three months off? No, (it was) four. Four months off.
“That’s why we are in top form right now. Jurgen has to see the calendar again. We had Covid, we had one week and we played with 14 players at Stamford Bridge.
“But maybe I’m wrong and it was not two weeks, it was three or four weeks. Tomorrow when I see Jurgen I’ll say to him, ‘How many weeks or days were we off?’”
Guardiola has expressed surprise that Klopp might have indulged in mind games ahead of Sunday’s encounter, which undoubtedly has more riding on it for Liverpool in terms of the title race.
While the pair have been competing against each other at the top of the English game for the last three years, there has been none of the bitterness which has characterised other top managerial rivalries of the past. The relationship between the two has often seemed amicable.
“I’m surprised,” Guardiola said. “I thought Jurgen was not that type of manager, like other ones who are usually doing it. I didn’t expect that comment.
“But maybe it was a misunderstanding from him. If he sees the calendar again he will realise it was not two weeks, it was two months.”
Asked further about the matter at a press conference, Guardiola said: “I’m not irritated. I didn’t expect it, not from him.
“He knows it’s not true, come on! Nobody in the Premier League has had two weeks off. Everyone knows it.
“Some of them, with that kind of situation, do it on purpose but I didn’t expect he would do it. I thought he’s not that type of guy, but, if he did it, OK. Maybe I was wrong.”
Guardiola feels it should not be overlooked City actually had a far shorter summer break than most teams due to their involvement in the latter stages of the Champions League last August.
“We didn’t forget it but they did of course,” said Guardiola, who will still be without injured pair Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero this weekend.