MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Jürgen Klopp might be getting his excuses in early.

Losing to Manchester City on Sunday would leave Liverpool 10 points behind Pep Guardiola’s side. After ending Liverpool’s three-decade title drought, Klopp could be surrendering the Premier League trophy within a year.

For the Liverpool manager, the fault will — in part — be the grueling fixture schedule.

“We didn’t have a break,” Klopp said Friday. “I think City had a two-week break for COVID reasons.”

Not so, says Guardiola.

“He made a mistake,” the City manager said in a news conference shortly after Klopp spoke in Liverpool.

City had a game at Everton postponed on Dec. 28 as part of a coronavirus outbreak that forced six players and staff members into isolation.

Advertising

As a result of the cancellation, City had a gap of eight days between their game against Newcastle on Dec. 26 and the trip to Chelsea on Jan 3.

“Jürgen has to see the calendar again,” Guardiola said. “We had COVID. We have one week and we played with 14 players at Stamford Bridge.”

Those matches came early in the current nine-game winning streak in the Premier League that has taken City from midtable to three points clear of Manchester United at the top with a game in hand.

Liverpool has experienced a downturn in fortunes in that time, slipping from first to fourth place, seven points behind City having played a game more,

Guardiola points out the only days off City had as a result were the day of the intended game at Goodison Park and the planned recovery day afterward.

“I’m not irritated. I didn’t expect it, not from him,” Guardiola said of Klopp. “He knows it’s not true, come on! Nobody in the Premier League has had two weeks off. Everyone knows it.”

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports