A Manchester City training session in progress shows players in good spirits despite the surge in COVID-19 infections. Courtesy: Manchester City website
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday that five first team players have tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be involved when they play Chelsea on Sunday.
The club said last week that striker Gabriel Jesus and defender Kyle Walker had tested positive but Guardiola refused to divulge the names of the other “three important players” who would not be available for Sunday’s clash.
“I don’t think the Premier League allow us to name the players but you will know tomorrow,” Guardiola told reporters.
“We had enough players to play against Everton, we wanted to play but, on the day of the game, with more cases we informed the Premier League and I personally called (Everton manager) Carlo Ancelotti to explain the situation.
“The day before we were in touch about what would happen and the huge risk... But now the training centre is disinfected and hopefully the next tests everyone is negative and the people that are positive can come back without problems.”
City returned to training on Wednesday after a deep clean but Guardiola said they had their problems as they prepared for Chelsea.
“You are less in touch. The players are not in the locker room anymore, they just train on the pitch,” Guardiola added.
“It is what it is. We have a good enough squad to go there and try to compete against a tough opponent in Chelsea. We are going there to play our game with enthusiasm and goodwill to try to do a good performance.”
LAMPARD SAYS CHELSEA READY: Despite fresh COVID-19 cases at both Chelsea and City this week, Blues manager Frank Lampard says their preparations for Sunday’s Premier League clash against Guardiola’s City will go ahead as planned.
A surge in infections at City among players and staff forced the club to lodge a request with the Premier League to postpone Monday’s game at Everton. City also closed their training ground as a precaution. The first-team squad were able to resume training on Wednesday only after the entire staff in the bubble returned negative COVID-19 tests.
“I’ve been given the chances of the game being postponed. At the moment the game is on,” Lampard told a news conference on Friday.
“We know that Manchester City have had some (COVID-19) positives at their training ground.”
“We’ve had a couple ourselves but not on the playing staff and that’s the current situation,” he added.
When asked if his players have any concerns about playing this weekend, Lampard said: “We feel as safe as the general public. We’re in a protective environment - certainly in the workplace. We’re now tested twice a week, which is important.
“I think safety and security is paramount, trying to keep the nation’s spirits up. We enjoy watching our football but safety is important.”
Lampard confirmed defender Reece James has been ruled out for the weekend with a muscle injury but winger Hakim Ziyech has returned to training after recovering from a hamstring issue.
FULHAM’S PARKER IN DOUBT ON BURNLEY TRIP: Also, Fulham manager Scott Parker does not know if his side’s trip to Burnley on Sunday will go ahead as a spike in coronavirus infections continues to wreak havoc on the Premier League schedule.
An outbreak in the Fulham squad led to Wednesday’s trip to Tottenham being postponed less than three hours before kick-off.
That was the second Premier League postponement this week after Manchester City’s trip to Everton was also called off.
“I don’t know whether the Burnley game is going to get played or not,” said Parker.
“We’ve had retesting the last few days. We’ve got a bunch of players and we’re preparing the best we can.”
Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho branded the league’s handling of the situation “unprofessional”, which Parker has sympathy with.
“We were in exactly the same position as Tottenham were in. We were in a hotel, we didn’t know until late on as well.
“We were sitting 20 minutes away from the stadium, obviously ready to have pre-match and waiting around in the hotel so it was late for my side as well,” Mourinho added.
The United Kingdom has had more than 2.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and recorded over 73,500 deaths.
English Premier League fixtures:
On Saturday: Tottenham vs Leeds (1230), Crystal Palace vs Sheffield United (1500), Brighton vs Wolves (1730), West Brom vs Arsenal (2000);
On Sunday: Burnley vs Fulham (1200), Newcastle vs Leicester (1415), Chelsea vs Manchester City (1630); on Monday: Southampton vs Liverpool (2000)
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