Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has responded to claims from Thomas Tuchel that City have been luckier with COVID-19 than others.
Chelsea boss Tuchel stoked the fires ahead of Saturday lunchtime's meeting of the Premier League title rivals at the Etihad.
Defeat for Chelsea would see them trail the reigning champions by a whopping thirteen points at the top of the table. Asked how his side have slipped so far behind, Tuchel responded, "So far the biggest difference in the season as far as I’m concerned is they dealt better with injuries and the Covid situation.
"Maybe it is lucky, maybe they do it better, but they have fewer injuries to key players, fewer days out and weeks where they miss them.
"They did not suffer from Covid like we did. This is a huge difference."
City were without seven first-team players for last week's FA Cup third round win at Swindon, while fourteen backroom team members - and Guardiola - were also forced to miss the County Ground trip.
When Tuchel's comments were put to him, Guardiola fired back, ""Are you saying here we are smarter than Omicron to come and visit us?
"We had a lot of cases and injuries. We played Aston Villa with 11 first-team players.
"The last six, seven games there are four, five academy players on the bench. We are in the same situation as all other clubs.
"Injuries a bit less because our medical department are incredible. It happens to all clubs, it's around the world, it's not because we are smarter. The virus comes to the bubble, everyone suffers."
City's Covid problems haven't eased much, according to the City manager, even if he'll be able to take his place on the sideline.
"Some people are coming, some are positive again," Guardiola revealed.
"When you test once, twice, negative you come back. Otherwise not. It happened in all the clubs. We have some new cases, they want privacy so I can't say.
"We are used to handling this situation from a long time, this variant is in our lives. In the past it was the same. Just adapt."
EXCLUSIVE: Shelbourne announce Off The Ball as new official media partner