Soccer-Guardiola to confront Klopp over Man City 'COVID break' claim

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FILE PHOTO: Premier League - Manchester City v Liverpool

(Reuters) - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on Friday hit back at Liverpool counterpart Juergen Klopp's claim that City have benefited from a "two-week COVID break" to go top of the Premier League table.

City's Premier League trip to Everton was initially scheduled for Dec. 28 but was postponed after a number of positive COVID-19 cases identified within the squad.

As a result, Guardiola's side did not play for a week between their 2-0 Boxing Day win over Newcastle United and a 3-1 victory over Chelsea on Jan. 3 -- which they played without eight first-team players.

"We haven't had a break - City had two weeks for COVID reasons," Klopp told reporters ahead of City's visit to Anfield on Sunday. "It's a tough year. Some teams it looks less, but for us, it's tough."

When asked about Klopp's comments, Guardiola sarcastically replied: "He made a mistake, it was two months off, or three months, no four, four months we had off."

Guardiola vowed to speak to the Liverpool boss on the issue when their sides meet at Anfield this weekend.

"Juergen has to see the calendar again," Guardiola added. "We had COVID, we had one week, we played with 14 players at Stamford Bridge.

"When I see Juergen, I will ask him how long we had off. I didn't expect it from him. He knows it's not true.

"I thought Juergen was not that kind of manager but maybe it was a misunderstanding from him."

City can move 10 points clear of defending champions Liverpool with a victory at Anfield.

"We have not had exceptional results there, but we made good performances," Guardiola said. "We go to try to win the game, not to draw, knowing their quality and the team they have. No more than that."

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)