Pep Guardiola has hit back at Thomas Tuchel’s claim that Manchester City have not suffered as badly as the Blues with Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.

Chelsea boss Tuchel cited the absences of key players following positive tests at the London club as one of the reasons why champions City have pulled 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

“They did not suffer from Covid as we did over many weeks, so this is a huge difference,” said the German ahead of Saturday’s clash between the two clubs at the Etihad Stadium.

His remarks come after Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk suggested City may have had more luck than the Merseysiders throughout the recent wave of Omicron-inflated infections.

Wandsworth Times: Chelsea boss Thomas TuchelChelsea boss Thomas Tuchel

City manager Guardiola accepts they have a right to an opinion but thinks his players – and not for the first time – are not being given the credit they deserve after battling through a tough period.

The Spaniard said: “If they believe it’s the reason why then maybe, maybe. Sometimes it’s the money that we have, sometimes it’s Covid. I don’t know. What can I say?

“But the pandemic is all around the world and everywhere there is the virus. We are exposed every single minute and day to getting it.

“We have had a lot of cases and injuries. We played Aston Villa with 11 players in the first team.

“For the last six or seven games we’ve had four or five Academy players on the bench. We are in the same situation as all other clubs.

“It’s not like we are not wiser than others, or because we do the protocols better than the other ones, the virus comes to the bubble and everyone suffers, so we are no exception.

“Today we are OK but in a few hours we might have four or five positives. That is why we have to adapt, adjust, and work out what we have to do.

“The rest, the points we’ve got so far is down to the quality of the players, this is the main reason why.”

City were without 21 first-team personnel, including Guardiola himself and seven senior players, for last week’s FA Cup tie at Swindon.

Guardiola and some of the players will return this weekend but there have been further positive cases in the camp. The club have not revealed which players are positive or now negative.

The high case numbers raised the possibility that City could seek to have Saturday’s game rearranged but this was not in their thoughts and Guardiola is confused about the regulations.

“We try to play,” said Guardiola, whose side have won their last 11 Premier League matches and avoided any postponements. “If we have 11 or 12 players, it’s enough, we play.

“We have Cole Palmer, James McAtee and other players we try to play. We have enough players.

“I don’t know what counts. Is it just Covid or injuries? Injuries happen all the time so I don’t know the rules of the Premier League when it’s called off or cancelled.

“In many cases we’ve had just 12 first team players available plus the keeper and we played.”