Manchester City will be without Kevin De Bruyne for a key trio of fixtures after their star playmaker tested positive for Covid-19 while away with Belgium on international duty.
The news was delivered by City boss Pep Guardiola on the eve of Everton’s visit to the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League.
The vaccinated De Bruyne is set to isolate for 10 days and will also crucially be absent on Wednesday night when City host Paris Saint-Germain in a crunch Champions League group clash.
City – who currently sit second and three points adrift of leaders Chelsea – return to top-flight action by entertaining high-flying West Ham next weekend.
De Bruyne will hope to be back in contention at the start of December, with Guardiola’s side scheduled to travel to Aston Villa before matches against Watford, RB Leipzig, Wolves and Leeds that lead into a busy festive period.
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“Unfortunately Kevin tested positive for Covid in Belgium,” Guardiola told reporters at his pre-Everton press conference on Friday.
“We found out two days ago, he’s here. Forget about fitness and momentum, he’s positive, now he has to recover.
“We have to be careful, people are dying from Covid. He’s vaccinated so hopefully he will be okay.”
De Gea makes damning assessment; ‘strange’ Rangnick thoughts
Manchester United keeper David de Gea admits he felt his goal was under constant threat against Chelsea.
De Gea faced 24 shots but was beaten only by a Jorginho penalty as Manchester United battled to a 1-1 draw away at the Premier League leaders on Sunday.
The Spaniard saved from Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Antonio Rudiger, ensuring Jadon Sancho’s opener was enough for the visitors to earn a point.
De Gea has been openly critical of Manchester United in recent weeks, slamming their performance against Liverpool and eviscerating the display against Watford, which proved to be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s last as manager.
He was slightly more positive about the Chelsea match but pointed out that there is still plenty of work to be done.
“I think we already improved against Villarreal,” he said. “It was a big game for us, we won, we qualified and now we played against a very good team away from home.
“The effort from the team was very good. They had the best chances, to be honest. For me, a draw is not enough, we want to win all the time, but we are still in a tough moment. I’m proud of the effort of the team.
“On the pitch, in the goal, I was feeling danger for nearly the whole game, but we defended well. They missed big chances to find the target. The one [goal] we have, they gave us a chance and we scored. It’s not enough to draw, but at the moment with the way we are, it’s a big point.
“The games before, we were conceding three or four, now we conceded one from a penalty. We had a clean sheet against Villarreal, but this is just two games. We need to show in the games that are coming – we face Arsenal so it’s a big game again, we need to keep going – that we can stay focused and give 100 per cent.”
On the impending appointment of Ralf Rangnick as interim head coach until the end of the season, De Gea added: “It’s a bit strange, but we’re professional players.
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“We’re training properly, playing properly. We play under the pressure as well and that’s Manchester United.
“We’ll see what happens in the future, but at the moment, we are a team, we feel like we’re all together and fighting for the same things.
“At the moment, it is Carrick and we’re with him. We are still conceding many chances, but the team is together. This will make us stronger.”
Djokovic ‘probably won’t’ play Australian Open, says player’s father
Novak Djokovic “probably won’t” play the Australian Open in January over mandatory Covid vaccination rules, the world number one’s father said on Sunday, likening the restrictions to “blackmail”.
The 34-year-old Djokovic, who would be bidding for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne, has refused to say whether or not he has been vaccinated against coronavirus.
But Australian Open tournament chief Craig Tiley has said that all players must be inoculated to take part.
“Of course he would want to go with all his heart,” Djokovic’s father Srdjan told Serbian channel Prda TV.
“Because he is a sportsman and there are a lot of our people, the (Serbian) diaspora, there who would be delighted to see Novak.
“But I really don’t know if that will happen. Probably not under these conditions, with this blackmail and when it’s done that way.”
Srdjan Djokovic also defended his son’s “exclusive and personal right” to be vaccinated or not, and claimed that even he did not know if Novak had received the jab.
Tiley last week revealed that Djokovic “has said that he views this as a private matter for himself”.
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“We would love to see Novak here. He knows that he’ll have to be vaccinated to play here,” he added.
Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open champion, is level on 20 Grand Slam singles triumphs with old rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
He contracted Covid-19 during the ill-fated Adria Tour event he organised in the Balkans in June 2020, but said he did not suffer from any symptoms.
EPL: Conte reacts to postponement and backs Spurs to ‘exploit’ situation
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte said the decision to postpone Sunday’s Premier League game against Burnley was a “big disappointment”, but hopes his side can exploit the situation by using extra time on the training pitch.
Spurs’ clash at Turf Moor on Sunday was postponed 45 minutes before kick-off after heavy snow overnight and throughout Sunday in Lancashire.
Despite the best efforts of Burnley’s ground staff to clear the pitch, the unrelenting snow continued to blanket the playing surface and the decision to call off the game was made after an inspection led by referee Peter Bankes and in conjunction with respective managers Conte and Sean Dyche.
“A big disappointment because we were ready to play and we prepared for the game, and all the travel,” Conte said afterwards.
“But at same time I think the Premier League made the right decision to save the situation for the players and the fans. For everybody. It’s disappointing but the decision was right.
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“Ten minutes before the snow is worse than it was before and in this condition, it’s not football. I want to play football, I want to play. In this type of situation it’s impossible. There’s serious risk of injury and this is not good.
“For sure, we have to exploit the situation, to have a training session tomorrow to prepare for two important games against Brentford and Norwich. We’ll have more time to prepare and need to exploit in the right way.”
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