'From him, I didn't expect it' - Guardiola surprised by Klopp's COVID jibe

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Pep Guardiola expressed disappointment with Jurgen Klopp's attempt at pre-match mind games after the Liverpool manager falsely claimed Manchester City had "a two-week break for COVID reasons".

Champions Liverpool host Premier League leaders City on Monday (AEDT), where Guardiola's men have the chance to go 10 points clear of Klopp's side with a game in hand if they can claim a first win at Anfield since 2003.

Both men addressed the media on Saturday, with Klopp speaking first and suggesting a coronavirus outbreak within the City squad between Christmas and new year actually helped their title bid.

Asked about Guardiola's recently repeated mantra that his team - currently on a 20-match unbeaten run across all competitions - are playing better because they have managed to "run less" in possession, Klopp focused his attention upon the spike in infections that saw City's scheduled December 29 trip to Everton postponed.

"The more you keep the ball, the less you have to run, probably. We didn't have a break," he said.

"I think City had a two-week break for COVID reasons. It's really tough. It's a tough year, season; for some teams, it looks like lesser but, for us, for the reasons you know, it's tough."

In reality, City had a seven-day break between their 2-0 win over Newcastle United on December 27 and a January 4 trip to Chelsea, where a squad heavily depleted by a raft of players being forced to self-isolate secured an impressive 3-1 win.

Having started his own briefing later than scheduled, Guardiola opted to respond initially with heavy sarcasm.

"He made a mistake, it was two months off or three months off. Four months we had off. That is why we are in top form right now," he said.

"Jurgen has to see the calendar again. We had COVID, we had one week and we played with 14 players at Stamford Bridge, Maybe I'm wrong, maybe 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 famously endured a tempestuous back and forth with Jose Mourinho when the pair were in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid a decade ago - an affair he was perhaps referencing when stating he held Klopp, whom he also competed against in the Bundesliga, to higher standards.

"I'm surprised," he said. "I thought Jurgen was not that type of manager like other ones [for whom] it is usual to do it. I didn't expect that comment. From him, I didn't expect it.

"He knows it’s not true, come on! Nobody in the Premier League has had two weeks off, everyone knows. In some situation you do it [mind games] for a purpose, but I did not expect he will do it."

Liverpool have lost their past two home games 1-0 to Burnley and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Nevertheless, Anfield remains something of a final frontier for Guardiola as City boss, having lost four and drawn one of his five visits to the red side of Stanley Park.

"They are always an incredibly tough team and remain a tough squad," he said.

"They know the process, the skills, the routines and methodology they do offensively. No change.

"They are aggressive and will be more aggressive than ever, I'm pretty sure. They'll rest really well after the game against Brighton and they'll recover in these two weeks off and they will be ready."

City remain without Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring), Nathan Ake (muscular) and Sergio Aguero, who has endured a prolonged absence after testing positive for coronavirus. He is expected to return in a few weeks.

Source Omnisport