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Erling Haaland criticism, Jack Grealish praise, De Bruyne’s illness – Part two of Pep Guardiola’s pre-Luton press conference



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Pep Guardiola discussed various subjects in part two of his pre-match press conference ahead of the meeting with Luton Town on Saturday afternoon.

Manchester City return to Premier League action in between two mammoth clashes in European competition this week, returning from Madrid and the dramatic 3-3 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu with a clash against Rob Edwards’ side.

In the reverse fixture at Kenilworth Road in the top-flight, second-half goals from Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish ensured that Luton’s opener in first-half stoppage time would have no effect on the full-time scoreline.

City and Luton have already met for a second time this season too, with Pep Guardiola and his players cruising past the Premier League newcomers in the FA Cup through a remarkable 2-6 scoreline and five goals from Erling Haaland and four assists from Kevin De Bruyne.

Speaking during his pre-match address with the media, Manchester City’s manager looked back on Kevin De Bruyne’s sickness in Madrid, criticism around Erling Haaland, and the potential role to be played by Jack Grealish during the business end of the season.

Ahead of the third meeting between Manchester City and Luton Town this season, here is every word from Pep Guardiola’s embargoed section of his pre-match press conference from the City Football Academy.

On Kevin De Bruyne’s illness at the Santiago Bernabeu

“I don’t know what is the problem. So, the people have vomits sometimes, you know? For fever, for eating something wrong, and you have vomits. It happened in the moment of the game, it’s what happens. So, it happens. I’ve had vomits in my life, hangover sometimes…”

(It didn’t affect anybody else in the Manchester City squad?) “No, it’s just him.”

(How was he? Do you feel like he could have come on if necessary?) “Yeah, maybe in the last minutes but I saw his face before the game and half-time, and I didn’t like the face. The game was what it was and I preferred to don’t waste energy for tomorrow, and for the next Wednesday, and the coming games. The schedule is so tight, and everyone has to make his contribution.”

On whether he feels Manchester City are getting the most out of Erling Haaland’s strengths at the moment

“All the success last season is about the team. And when we play better, Erling (Haaland) will be better, and when he plays better it will help us to be better as a team. It’s not about one single player who makes situations, never judge for that.”

(Are you happy with the way he’s making an impact at the moment?) “A lot. A lot. He helps us to create more spaces in areas, and his contribution has been exceptional, since day one when he arrived here last season.”

On whether there is something that journalists and experts don’t see, as Erling Haaland is receiving a lot of criticism at the moment

“I said before, they can do whatever they want. This is our job, and our job is scrutiny every day about what we do. We have to be open, so it’s not a problem. But they have to understand that they have an opinion, and I have an opinion. They have an opinion, we have an opinion, and it doesn’t matter if he’s right or he’s wrong.

“So they gave an opinion, and I give an opinion, and it looks like I want to criticise the pundits. I don’t criticise the pundits, they do their job and we do our job. But we don’t have to agree. And nothing happens. It’s not now I criticise, my job is not of the pundits. They have to do it. We don’t. I give my opinion; we can agree, or we can disagree. Sometimes I agree, so it’s as simple as that.”

On whether Erling Haaland occupying two central defenders against Real Madrid to create space for others was a key point

“Yeah. That’s the point.”

(So you must be really pleased that he’s doing that better this year than last year?) “We are quite similar to last season. We scored four goals, four goals, three goals in the last three games. 11 goals in three games. And he helped us in scoring some of them, and creating a lot of spaces for the other ones to score a goal. So this is the question.

“I saw the face and what he said, Erling, after the game in the locker room. He was extremely happy. So it was a good result, and we’ll see what happens next Wednesday. Now the target is Luton, an incredibly briefed team, I admire a lot my colleague (Rob Edwards), it’s ‘chapeau’ because the courage he plays everywhere, it doesn’t matter where with his philosophy or idea, and always it’s tough.

“All the last games, every opponent has to beat them, it was really, really, really tough. And tomorrow will be no exception for the reasons why it’s an amount of games, a few days ago we played Madrid, and a few days after we have Madrid but we have the ability we have done in the past. To change competitions by competitions doing well, so we have to do it again. We know what happens; 21 points (to play), one point behind, and we know exactly what we have to do.”

On whether it is good for Manchester City’s players to keep switching competitions as it keeps them focussed

“We know what we have to do! We have done it. When the people say, ‘You have done it, you are going to win’ – no! It’s not about that, but we have done it and we know exactly what we have to do jumping competitions. And the players will be ready, there’s no doubt about that.

“We know what we’re playing for, so they know how tough it has been this season for many reasons, maybe one of the toughest seasons we have faced, for sure. We know exactly how difficult it has been internally at many, many moments this season, and we were there, we were there, we were there, and I know the players will be ready. I don’t have doubts about that.”

On how he and his staff keep Manchester City’s players fresh and energised at this time of the season

“Don’t train, don’t train, and don’t train. Massage. Water. Hot water. Cold water. Good food. Good rest. Some videos. And rest, rest, and rest, energy the day of the game, tomorrow at 3PM. It’s the only thing. Otherwise, people will get injured.”

(How short are those training sessions?) “Yeah, just concepts. What they do, what they have to do, the way you have to defend, the way you have to attack, walked through, 5/10 minutes, a lot of smiles, good conversations in the massage room. That’s all.”

On how players recover mentally

“Another player. The players are fatigued? Another player, and recover the other one. The player’s fatigue is fatigue, it’s normal. A lot of games, a lot of minutes, national teams, travels, it’s normal. But it’s the last part of the season, it’s one month and a half, more or less if you arrive at the end, or maybe less. And we fought a lot to be here, and now everything is here (in the head). You are not tired? Not tired.”

(How easy is it for a player to switch off in between games?) “Yeah, switch off, I don’t bother them much, they don’t see me, they don’t see us, a lot of time at home, come for exactly the game plan, and be ready for tomorrow.

“I said before to Jack (Gaughan), we are used to it. The last five, six years it happened every season, arriving in the quarter-finals, semi-finals, semi-finals all the time in the FA Cup, winning four times (in a row) the Carabao Cup, Premier Leagues always fighting until the end except one or two seasons.

“We are used to it. We know that if we lose tomorrow, Ciao Ciao. So we have to win! And the players know it, game plan, try to stick with them, and everyone supports everybody, stick together, and… GO!”

On how pleased he is with Jack Grealish’s form

“So no suggestion of Jack and beers? (No, just a joke) Ah OK, good.”

“We are really pleased. We miss him. And he has to continue until the end. And that level is the Jack that we know, and the personality, and the same he has to improve in some departments, in finishing for example.

“But this is the Jack we know from last season, that helps us again to do it, and this season unfortunately could not be there. I’m pretty sure he learned the lesson and he’s going to help us in this month and a half, not just the next years, so the years he has ahead of him for his career can perform in that level.”

On whether the idea of another player being able to walk in if players are tired is a sign of no sympathy, or setting a challenge to players

“I didn’t get the question, sorry. Can you repeat? Sorry, it’s my fault. Sorry, I didn’t get it properly. (Question repeated) Everybody is involved. So, it’s normal. If one player feels that, what is the problem? It’s not a problem.

“I think all the teams playing in the last stages, being in all competitions, normally the players/teams that are in the Champions League, Europa League, or Conference League, and fighting for – not just the Premier League – the qualifications, for relegations, or whatever, even the FA Cup, all of them have the same problems that we have.

“The amount of games played by Liverpool, or ourselves, even Liverpool more because they play Carabao Cup until the end, so these teams always have the same problems. All the managers have the same problems; people are fatigued, and maybe it’s better for 20 minutes, 30 minutes than from the beginning.

“So it’s not a problem. Today I will speak (to the players) and I’m pretty sure Rodri will be ready for tomorrow. I know him. Because after the game he was tired, because it was exhausting the game against Madrid, they come from Crystal Palace that was really, really tough as well, especially the first-half. But I know him. We will arrive and, ‘I’m fine, I’m ready’, I know him. And after we will decide what we have to do tomorrow, and for the next games, and for the coming games.”