City released a statement on the situation that read: “Pep Guardiola will miss tomorrow evening’s FA Cup trip to Swindon Town after testing positive for Covid-19.
“The City manager recorded a positive test on Tuesday along with assistant Juanma Lillo. Both are now isolating, along with a number of other positive cases within the City first team bubble.
“This brings the number of those isolating for Covid related reasons amongst the group to 21. Of that number, 14 are backroom staff with seven first team players.”
Although the team’s preparations for the FA Cup fixture had not been halted as at Thursday, it remains to be seen if the game will proceed as expected. This is because more test results will be released before the game on Friday and if more players test positive, that could force a postponement.
Assistant coach Rodolfo Borrell represented Pep Guardiola in the press conference on Thursday. He addressed the issue but in line with recent club policy, he did not reveal the identity of the players affected.
Regardless, City were expected to make significant changes in the lineup for the fixture anyway. Several young players were sighted in training this week including James McAtee, Luke Mbete, Romeo Lavia and Cole Palmer.
They could all feature as well as Brazilian youngster Kayky.
Borrell, who will take charge of the team on Friday night, stated that City intend on playing the game despite the current situation. As of Thursday, ‘16 or 17’ players, including youngsters drafted in, were available for the trip.
But despite not asking the FA for a postponement, the governing body could do so if more positive cases emerge or such a decision becomes necessary.
A deterioration of the situation could be a huge setback for City as the team is currently in excellent form. Covid-19 affects players differently and can lead to a drop in form for some. That could affect the team’s current progression.
Positive cases have been piling up recently as Rodri and Kyle Walker missed games in December. Phil Foden and Aleks Zinchenko also missed the New Year’s Day encounter against Arsenal after testing positive.
Kevin De Bruyne had earlier spent time on the sidelines after recording a positive test on international duty with Belgium during the November international break. After recovery, it took him some time to get in sync with the team.
With seven first team players now infected, the number could yet increase. Although that may not be a great concern against Swindon Town, it certainly will be if the players do not recover on time. They need to train and be fit for the Premier League game against Chelsea on January 15.
A loss to the European champions could just give the London side and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool the needed boost to knock City off their perch in the second half of the campaign.
The last thing any Cityzen will want is Covid-19 handing City a disadvantage in the title race.
Hopefully, things don’t get that bad.