Pep Guardiola is hopeful that Manchester City can mount a title challenge before the next international break, but confirmed that both Jack Grealish and Kevin De Bruyne will miss this weekend’s clash with Everton.
City face Everton at the Etihad on Sunday, looking to continue the momentum from the club’s 2-0 Manchester derby win at Old Trafford before the international break.
The champions are currently second in the division, three points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea after fixtures of their title defence.
Guardiola has discussed his side’s start to the season and has been pleased with City’s performance levels, though his hopeful his team can push on following the final international break of 2021.
“Every season looks more difficult but we’re still in the first quarter, many games ahead of us,” he told the media at his pre-match press conference.
“In general we’ve put in good performances, dropped some points at home because we weren’t at our level. Now until January there’s no international break we’re together. Hopefully we can get results, in the Champions League, and challenge for the title.”
Guardiola was asked whether he was happy that there will be no international breaks until March, though City are set to lose Riyad Mahrez during January’s Africa Cup of Nations.
🚨 | Pep Guardiola confirms Kevin De Bruyne tested positive for COVID-19 and will isolate for 10 days. pic.twitter.com/ZD6rY9IHdn
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) November 19, 2021
Guardiola joked that the break gives him time to rest and recover, before conceding that international breaks can often lead to problems at club level.
“As a club manager it is a dream because I have a week’s holiday. Look at my tan, it’s much better than at the United game,” he said.
“But at the same time, I’m concerned because every international break we’re unlucky. Players come back from the national team and they get injured, this time is not an exception. We get them fit, they come back not fit.”
The Spaniard provided an update on his squad and confirmed issues for Grealish, Phil Foden and De Bruyne, the latter having returned a positive test for Covid-19 and required to complete ten days of isolation.
“We have Jack getting better after he went to the national team. Phil Foden came back with a knock and a problem in his leg, but he is getting better. And unfortunately Kevin got a positive covid test in Belgium and needs ten days [in isolation].
“Jack, I don’t think so [will be available]. Phil, we will see.”
De Bruyne has struggled for form in recent weeks and Guardiola admits his positive test is a setback, though outlined that the midfielder’s health is of paramount importance.
“We found out two days ago, he is here. Forget about fitness and momentum, he is positive now he has to recover. We have to be careful, people are dying from Covid, he is vaccinated so hopefully he will be okay. There is no concern about rhythm it’s about the human being.”