Pep Guardiola expressed disappointment with Jurgen Klopp's attempt at pre-match mind games after the Liverpool manager falsely claimed Manchester City had "a two-week break for COVID reasons".

Champions Liverpool host Premier League leaders City on Sunday, where Guardiola's men have the chance to go 10 points clear of Klopp's side with a game in hand if they can claim a first win at Anfield since 2003.

Both men addressed the media on Friday, with Klopp speaking first and suggesting a coronavirus outbreak within the City squad between Christmas and new year actually helped their title bid.

Asked about Guardiola's recently repeated mantra that his team - currently on a 20-match unbeaten run across all competitions - are playing better because they have managed to "run less" in possession, Klopp focused his attention upon the spike in infections that saw City's scheduled December 28 trip to Everton postponed.

"The more you keep the ball, the less you have to run, probably. We didn't have a break," he said.

"I think City had a two-week break for COVID reasons. It's really tough. It's a tough year, season; for some teams, it looks like lesser but, for us, for the reasons you know, it's tough."

In reality, City had a seven-day break between their 2-0 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day and a January 3 trip to Chelsea, where a squad heavily depleted by a raft of players being forced to self-isolate secured an impressive 3-1 win.

Having started his own briefing later than scheduled, Guardiola opted to respond initially with heavy sarcasm.

"He made a mistake, it was two months off or three months off. Four months we had off. That is why we are in top form right now," he said.

"Jurgen has to see the calendar again. We had COVID, we had one week and we played with 14 players at Stamford Bridge, Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it was three or four weeks.

"Tomorrow when I see Jurgen I'll say to him, 'How many weeks or days were we off?'"

Guardiola famously endured a tempestuous back and fourth with Jose Mourinho when the pair were in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid a decade ago - an affair he was perhaps referencing when stating he held Klopp, whom he also competed against in the Bundesliga, to higher standards.

"I'm surprised," he said. "I thought Jurgen was not that type of manager like other ones [for whom] it is usual to do it. I didn't expect that comment. From him, I didn't expect it.

"He knows it’s not true, come on! Nobody in the Premier League has had two weeks off, everyone knows. In some situation you do it [mind games] for a purpose, but I did not expect he will do it."

Liverpool have lost their past two home games 1-0 to Burnley and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Nevertheless, Anfield remains something of a final frontier for Guardiola as City boss, having lost four and drawn one of his five visits to the red side of Stanley Park.

"They are always an incredibly tough team and remain a tough squad," he said.

"They know the process, the skills, the routines and methodology they do offensively. No change.

"They are aggressive and will be more aggressive than ever, I'm pretty sure. They'll rest really well after the game against Brighton and they'll recover in these two weeks off and they will be ready."

City remain without Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring), Nathan Ake (muscular) and Sergio Aguero, who has endured a prolonged absence after testing positive for coronavirus. He is expected to return in a few weeks.

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic could face Dominic Thiem in a mouth-watering semi-final after being handed a tough path to success at Melbourne Park, where Serena Williams will continue her quest for a 24th grand slam singles title.

The Australian Open draw took place on Friday, with world number one Djokovic set to play Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the opening round of the year's first major tournament.

Amid coronavirus concerns in Melbourne, where Swiss great Roger Federer is absent, Djokovic has set his sights on a ninth crown and 18th major success, but the top seed's title defence is far from straightforward.

Djokovic could face Gael Monfils (fourth round) and sixth seed Alexander Zverev (quarter-final) en route to a possible semi-final against US Open champion and third seed Thiem.

The Serb overcame Thiem in a five-set thriller in last year's Australian Open final, before the latter broke through for his maiden major trophy at Flushing Meadows.

Djokovic could then meet second seed and 20-time major champion Rafael Nadal in a blockbuster final – he blitzed the Spanish superstar in the 2019 Australian Open decider but lost in three one-sided sets in their previous meeting in the French Open final.

Nadal will go head-to-head with another Serb in the first round – Laslo Djere – while Stefanos Tsitsipas could await in the quarters, with 2019 US Open final opponent Daniil Medvedev also on the same side of the draw.

Meanwhile, Williams' bid for a record-equalling 24th slam will begin against German Laura Siegemund.

The 39-year-old Williams has been stuck on 23 majors since winning the Australian Open in 2017 – losing finals at Wimbledon (2018 and 2019) and the US Open (2018 and 2019).

World number one and local hope Ashleigh Barty will meet Montenegro's Danka Kovinic in round one and defending champion Sofia Kenin faces Australian wildcard Maddison Inglis.

The last 16 could see Williams clash with Aryna Sabalenka, Barty meet Petra Martic, Kenin tackle Johanna Konta and three-time major champion Naomi Osaka do battle with last year's runner-up Garbine Muguruza.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said there were no plans to change the schedule for the major amid coronavirus concerns.

More than 500 players and officials were forced into isolation after a worker at an Australian Open quarantine hotel tested positive for COVID-19.

It led to play at lead-up events in Melbourne on Thursday being called off and sparked fears around the year's first grand slam, which is scheduled to begin on Monday.

But Tiley is hoping play is back underway on Friday and said he expects the Australian Open to start as scheduled.

"The intention is to start the Australian Open on Monday so there's no intention of changing the time for the Australian Open," he told a news conference.

Tiley added: "We're absolutely confident the Australian Open is going to go ahead.

"We know that we've got a period now that we've got to work through with those 507 players and their staff, 160 players actually, that need a test and we fully expect the probability is very low that there's going to be any issue.

"We fully expect them all to test negative and then we continue with play tomorrow like we originally planned and if we have to go through this again we'll continue to go through this again and we've got another three and a half weeks of tennis, we've got a lot of tennis to play and fully expect to keep the original schedule once we get past today."

The draw for the Australian Open was pushed back to Friday, while crowds are still expected to be in attendance for the major.

Sri Lanka's tour of the West Indies could be rescheduled after head coach Mickey Arthur and batsman Lahiru Thirimanne tested positive for coronavirus.

Arthur and opener Thirimanne are following government health protocols after discovering they had contracted COVID-19 in the latest round of testing on Tuesday.

Sri Lanka are due to head out to the Caribbean this month, but the tour may be put back.

A Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) statement released on Wednesday said: "Following PCR Tests carried out on the provisional squad, which was preparing to take part in the national team's upcoming tour of the West Indies, head coach Mickey Arthur and Sri Lanka player Lahiru Thirimanne have tested positive for Covid-19.  

"They were detected following PCR Tests carried out yesterday for the entire 36-member squad, along with the coaching staff, net bowlers, and the HPC Staff.  

"Immediately upon identification, both Mickey Arthur and Lahiru Thirimanne have been directed to follow the government’s health protocol laid out on COVIDI-19.  

"The 36-member group commenced practices on the 28th January, in three groups and at different time periods, as a precautionary health measure. 

"Considering the current situation, SLC is exploring the possibility of rescheduling the Tour of the West Indies, which was scheduled to commence on 20th Feb, 2021.

"In the meantime, Sri Lanka Cricket will continue with normal operations, adhering to the stipulated health protocols in all its centers."

Sri Lanka were whitewashed 2-0 by England in a recent series in Galle.

 

Bayern Munich are still waiting on Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez to return negative coronavirus tests so they can resume first-team duties.

The midfield duo are set to be absent once again for Friday's Bundesliga match at Hertha Berlin after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference, head coach Hansi Flick confirmed Martinez's spell of self-isolation is set to end on Wednesday, with Goretzka having to wait until Friday.

After the Hertha game, European champions Bayern will fly to Qatar to commence their Club World Cup campaign.

"With Javi and Leon it is the case that we do a test after the quarantine, I can't comment on that because I don't have the results," he said.

"Javi has to take the test and then it will be determined if he still has the virus in his body. We have to wait from day to day.

"We also know with Leon that it takes a few days longer. He also has to be tested, everything will depend on that."

With or without Goretzka and Martinez, Flick conceded the Club World Cup will place an additional strain upon Bayern within an already condensed schedule.

"Qatar is very stressful, we have the flight and the games on Mondays and Thursdays. It was clear to us that we would not have time for proper training," he said.

"The team, coaching team and club want to win the next title, we all know that it is not easy.

"In addition to getting some vitamin D [sunshine], it is also a change from everyday life, even if the journey is dangerous.

"We want the sixth title in a year, the team would make history."

Flick had some words of encouragement for Niklas Sule, the defender who has only started two of Bayern's past six Bundesliga matches and was recently linked with a move to Chelsea.

"Niklas is an absolute option, whether in the centre or full-back position," he said of the Germany international, who suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament last season.

"He did well at Schalke [last month's 4-0 win where Sule played at right-back]. Don't forget that he had a long injury.

"Niklas is a fast player who is serene on the ball and helps shape the game from behind. Given his size, he has absolute strength and I'm glad he's on our team.

"We will see how everything develops and how he sees his future. I am satisfied with his development, you can rely on him."

Preparations for the Australian Open were dealt a fresh blow on Wednesday when a member of hotel staff tested positive for coronavirus, although Victoria's premier insists the tournament is not under threat at this stage.

A 26-year-old worker at the Grand Hyatt Hotel returned a negative test at the end of his previous shift on January 29 but subsequently developed symptoms and tested positive on Wednesday.

As a result, Melbourne and the wider Victoria region has reverted to its New Year's Eve restrictions of gatherings at home being limited to 15 people and masks having to be worn in public indoor spaces.

In terms of the specific impact upon participants in the Australian Open, players, officials and support staff who were staying at the hotel during this period must now isolate and undertake a COVID-19 test.

The number of tournament-related personnel classed as "casual contacts" related to the incident is estimated to be between 500 and 600.

Nevertheless, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference he was confident the Australian Open would go ahead as planned, even though the requirement that some players isolate and test could have an impact upon warm-up tournaments that are ongoing at Melbourne Park.

"There's about 500-600 people that are either players and officials and others who are casual contacts," Andrews said.

"They will be isolating until they get a negative test and that work will be done tomorrow so it might have an impact on tomorrow's play in the lead-up event, but at this stage there's no impact to the tournament proper.

"That's important to us, but the issue we're most focused on is much broader. That's about public health and public safety and that's why we've really pounced on this."

The Australian Open is scheduled to run from February 8-21.

Joao Felix has tested positive for COVID-19, adding to Diego Simeone's problems ahead of Atletico Madrid's meeting with Celta Vigo.

Portugal international Joao Felix is self-isolating at home, as team-mates Mario Hermoso and Yannick Carrasco have been doing since Friday.

A brief Atletico statement read: "Joao Felix has tested positive for COVID-19. The striker is isolating at home, in compliance with the health authorities' guidelines and LaLiga protocols."

Simeone's men have a 10-point advantage at the top of LaLiga and welcome Celta to the Wanda Metropolitano on Monday. They then travel to Granada the following Saturday.

Hermoso and Carrasco are unlikely to return for the meeting with Celta, while Kieran Trippier will be absent due to suspension.

Joao Felix marked his return to the starting line-up against Valencia on January 24 by scoring his first goal in almost two months and setting up another, leading Atletico from a goal down to a 3-1 victory.

The 21-year-old has been left out of the first XI eight times in LaLiga this season and Atletico have won all those matches.

However, when Joao Felix starts they average two more shots (12.1 to 10.0) and their goals-per-game ratio improves from 1.9 to 2.3.

Harry Kane paid tribute to "inspirational" Captain Tom Moore after the former British Army officer died at the age of 100.

England skipper Kane was joined by manager Gareth Southgate in remembering the impact the veteran made on the country during the coronavirus crisis.

Southgate said the man who became affectionately known as Captain Tom had "demonstrated the very best of England".

In a fundraising effort, when he was 99 years old, he raised close to £33million for NHS charities by walking 100 laps of his garden.

Kane wrote on Twitter: "Very sad to hear this news as he was an inspirational man who did so much for others. My thoughts are with his family and friends."

Captain Moore was made an honorary colonel to mark his 100th birthday, which was honoured with a Royal Air Force flypast, and he was later knighted by the Queen.

He died in Bedford Hospital with COVID-19 after being admitted on Sunday, having previously been ill with pneumonia.

Southgate said: "Captain Sir Tom Moore demonstrated the very best of England during an extremely difficult time for the nation.

"It is no exaggeration to say he helped bring the country together in a way that few ever could, and he leaves a legacy that will never be forgotten.

"I was especially struck by his dedication to going above and beyond with his personal challenge, his relentless positivity and his good humour."

In a statement issued by the Football Association, Southgate added: "It was a wonderful moment to see him chosen to lead England's Lionhearts squad celebrating 23 individuals who had done so much to help others this past year – one of many deserved honours that came his way.

"He will be missed, but we will remember him."

Premier League champions Liverpool used the words of their famous club anthem to pay tribute, declaring: "An inspiration and a true hero. You'll Never Walk Alone."

Graeme Smith has admitted Cricket South Africa (CSA) was left "extremely disappointed" with the decision taken by Australia to pull out of their upcoming tour.

A three-Test series was scheduled to take place in March, but Cricket Australia (CA) announced on Tuesday that those plans had been shelved due to the public health situation in South Africa amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The country was dealing with over 10,000 positive COVID-19 cases a day at the start of January and while that number has since dropped considerably, there is also a new variant of the virus.

However, having done all possible to appease safety concerns and establish protocols so the tour could take place as planned, CSA director of cricket Smith revealed the frustration at the late cancellation.

"We are extremely disappointed by the decision of CA," former Proteas captain Smith said. "CSA has been working tirelessly in recent weeks to ensure that we meet every single expectation of CA.

"This was set to be the longest tour in a BSE (bio-secure environment) comprising a three-match Test series that was scheduled to begin with Australia's arrival later in the month. So to be informed about the CA decision at the eleventh hour is frustrating."

Dr Shuaib Manjra, chief medical officer for CSA, explained how the organisation had done everything possible during the planning stage, including proposing protocols to their Australian counterparts that were "unprecedented".

The cancellation has ramifications for the inaugural ICC World Test Championship, too. New Zealand are now certain to be playing in the final later this year, where they will go up against either England, India or Australia.

Pholetsi Moseki, acting CEO for CSA, said: "It is indeed sad that after all the engagements and effort made to ensure a secure visit by our Australian counterparts, the tour has been derailed.

"CSA has incurred significant costs related to the planning stages and the cancellation of the tour represents a serious financial loss."

South Africa are currently on tour in Pakistan, with the second of two Tests set to start on Thursday in Rawalpindi.

They will also play a three-match Twenty20 series against their hosts - with all the white-ball fixtures to be staged in Lahore - before returning home in the middle of February.

Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has denied leaking Lionel Messi's contract details and says the Argentina captain deserves his eye-watering salary.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Sunday reported that the deal Barca captain Messi signed in 2017 could earn him in excess of €555million.

The leak of the mercurial forward's earnings came as it was revealed Barca's debts have reportedly risen above €1.1billion, with the coronavirus pandemic having such a huge impact. 

With much talk of who might have been responsible for passing on such confidential information, Bartomeu says he had nothing to do with it.

He told Esport3: "It's a very serious issue and it's totally illegal to leak professional contracts.

"Speaking on TV and making accusations is easy, but it's not a joke and this will end up in court."

Bartomeu added: "By the way, Leo deserves what he earns. Both for professional and commercial reasons. Without the pandemic, Barcelona could easily pay those figures."

LaLiga president Javier Tebas also said it is unfair to put Barca's financial situation down to Messi's staggering contract, which expires at the end of this season.

He wrote on Twitter: "Barcelona's delicate financial situation [like other big clubs] is not Messi's fault but the devastating effect of COVID.

"Without the pandemic, the income generated by the best player in history would prop up that expenditure. The sensationalism that surrounds the matter is unfair."

Pierre Gasly has become the latest Formula One driver to confirm a positive test for coronavirus.

The Alpha Tauri driver confirmed he is self-isolating and "feeling ok".

Frenchman Gasly wrote on Twitter: "Hello everyone, I hope you're all safe and well.

"I wanted to let you know that I tested positive for COVID-19. I have told everyone I've been in contact with during these last days.

"I'm currently self-isolating and following the protocol set by the local health authorities. I'm feeling ok and will continue to follow my training plan from home while I remain in isolation. Take care."

Six drivers on the grid have now tested positive for coronavirus, with world champion Lewis Hamilton having been among those towards the end of the 2020 season.

Racing Point drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll also missed races due to COVID-19 last year, while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris of McLaren contracted the virus during the close season.

Barcelona's financial situation is due to the coronavirus pandemic and not Lionel Messi, insisted LaLiga president Javier Tebas.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported on Sunday that the deal superstar captain Messi signed in 2017 – due to expire at season's end – is worth more than €555million over four years.

It comes after Messi attempted to leave Camp Nou prior to the 2020-21 campaign and amid Barca's financial woes caused by the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.

But Tebas wrote via Twitter: "Barcelona's delicate financial situation [like other big clubs] is not Messi's fault but the devastating effect of COVID.

"Without the pandemic, the income generated by the best player in history would prop up that expenditure.

"The sensationalism that surrounds the matter is unfair."

Messi, who has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City as his contract expires, scored his 650th Barca goal in Sunday's 2-1 LaLiga victory against Athletic Bilbao.

The six-time Ballon d'Or opened the scoring with a 20th-minute free-kick before Jordi Alba's own goal restored parity, though Griezmann secured maximum points 16 minutes from the end.

Messi has scored two direct free-kick goals from his last four attempts for Barcelona in all competitions, after scoring just one from his previous 62 attempts.

Of Messi's 650 goals for Barcelona, 49 of them have been direct free-kicks – 38 in LaLiga.

Messi has 12 goals and two assists in the league for Barca, who are second and 10 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid.

Rafael Nadal wants to play at the Olympics but the star said fitting more quarantining into the ATP Tour calendar looked "difficult".

After being postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Games are scheduled to start in Tokyo on July 23.

Naomi Osaka said she would be willing to quarantine ahead of the Olympics, with players having gone through similar in preparation for the Australian Open.

Nadal, an Olympic gold medallist in singles and doubles in 2008 and 2016 respectively, said he would listen to the experts, but acknowledged quarantining could be tough.

"It's the same as always. I am nobody to have a clear opinion on that.  I am just a tennis player, a human person that doesn't have enough knowledge about all the situation," the Spanish star told a news conference on Sunday.

"What we have to do is just follow the instructions of what the people who really have the right knowledge of all this stuff give to us. What's going to happen in Tokyo for the Olympics, if the Olympics are going to happen or not, or if we have to do quarantine before Olympics for 15 days or not, seems like a sports perspective very difficult because it's difficult for us, I don't know, combining our Tour with another 15 days of quarantine to play Olympics. It looks difficult to fix it in our calendar.

"But, as I said, we're going to do what the people who know about virus and who know about protecting the people in every single country, [we] are going to just follow their instructions."

Asked if his intention was to go, Nadal said: "I think everybody wants to play in Olympic Games, then let's see what's going on."

Nadal and Spain will begin their ATP Cup campaign against Australia on Tuesday.

Naomi Osaka would be prepared to spend another two weeks in quarantine to be able to play at a "very special" Olympics in Tokyo.

Postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Games are scheduled to begin on July 23 this year.

This year's Australian Open will begin on February 8 after players quarantined ahead of the first grand slam of the year.

Osaka said she would be prepared to do it all again if it meant she got the chance to play at the Olympics.

"Honestly, my concern isn't the athletes. The way that I feel is I will stay in my room for two weeks to play the Olympics. I missed out on the last one," the Japanese star told a news conference on Sunday.

"Playing in Tokyo would be very special to me. My concern would be the general safety of everyone else because you're opening the country.  Everyone is flying in from different places. I would just want the public to feel safe.

"I feel like the athletes definitely would want to play, but I would want the public to feel safe."

Doubts have also been cast over the Olympics going ahead this year due to COVID-19.

Osaka, a three-time major champion, said while people she had spoken to were excited, some were worried.

"For me the people that I've spoken to, they're really excited about it, but they're concerned because, I don't know, there's just like so many different people entering. I don't know," she said.

"For the people I've talked to, they said as long as everyone is safe, as long as Japan is getting better and not worse, then it should be okay.

"But for me, hmm, don't quote me on that."

Ahead of the Australian Open, Osaka is playing the Gippsland Trophy, where she will face either Alize Cornet or Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round.

Bayern Munich's display in their 4-1 rout of Hoffenheim set the standard for the rest of the season, according to Hansi Flick.

Jerome Boateng, Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry struck as Bayern cruised to a fourth straight Bundesliga victory – their second-longest winning run of the season after they won five games on the spin between matchweeks three and seven.

Munich have now scored 57 goals in the league this term, a club record after 19 games, while the only other side to have scored more after the same amount of fixtures was Hamburg in 1981-82 (58).

It lifted Bayern, briefly at least, 10 points clear at the top of the table, with the signs looking ominous for the rest of the league as the Bavarian giants chase down a ninth successive title.

"You are used to the fact that both teams want to play football. Hoffenheim has also shown that and created opportunities, especially in the first half," Flick told Bayern's official website. 

"It is a very good result. We have now won four games in a row – 12 points. We played a good game, that is our benchmark.

"Certainly not everything was great, but I'm satisfied. We wanted to get back on track after the two defeats. That's what makes big teams. This is a good thing and gives you confidence."

Lewandowski was typically integral to Bayern's win, setting up Muller for his 10th Bundesliga goal of the season before the Poland star helped himself to a 24th top-flight strike of 2020-21 early in the second half, the most of any Bundesliga player in history after 19 games.

His strike partner Muller was also at his industrious best, with the 31-year-old having hit double figures in the league for the first time since 2015-16, when he scored 20.

"After four wins from four games you can say that we are on the right track," Muller said.

"In large phases of the game, we repeatedly showed serious actions both in the front and in the back. If we pick up the pace, we often end up in good situations. 

"Of course we would have liked to not concede a goal. It was good and creative up front. We would have deserved one more goal."

One player to miss Saturday's win was Corentin Tolisso, who has been fined by Bayern after breaching the club's coronavirus protocols in order to get a tattoo.

"We're grateful that games can currently take place in the Bundesliga despite the ongoing coronavirus situation. A condition of that is that players, coaches and staff must adhere to the DFL's hygiene concept in an exemplary manner," said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"Corentin Tolisso has now contravened these guidelines, although our sporting and medical leadership continuously and clearly communicate them. We won't tolerate violations like this. We will therefore hand Corentin Tolisso a heavy fine, which will be donated to charity."

Tolisso's omission from the squad came after Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez tested positive for COVID-19.

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