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John Stones injury timeframe revealed, Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne updates – Embargoed section: Pep Guardiola’s pre-Sheffield United press conference part two



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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has addressed the media for the final time ahead of a match in the 2023 calendar year, with Sheffield United the visitors.

City come into the contest fresh off the back of victory at the FIFA Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia, followed by a comeback win over Everton at Goodison Park in Premier League action on Wednesday night.

Second-half goals from Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez, and Bernardo Silva cancelled out Jack Harrison’s first-half opener to claim a vital three points for the reigning Premier League champions as they look to put together a winning run of form over the winter period.

Sheffield United are the latest side to challenge Pep Guardiola and his players’ title-winning credentials as Chris Wilder’s men hope to recover their own campaign by working towards Premier League survival following Paul Heckingbottom’s dismissal.

City are likely to be without Erling Haaland, Jeremy Doku, John Stones, and Kevin De Bruyne, despite the latter moving ever closer towards a long-anticipated return to on-field action following surgery on a muscular problem last summer.

Prior to Saturday afternoon’s meeting at the Etihad Stadium, here is every word from part two of Pep Guardiola’s pre-match press conference with the media at the City Football Academy on Friday afternoon.

On whether Jack Grealish will be in the Manchester City squad against Sheffield United, and whether he is OK to play

“Now we have training at 3PM. Yesterday he didn’t come for the recovery, he was with his family, and we’re going to see how does he feel today. We’re going to talk with him and we’ll see! I don’t know right now.”

On whether Erling Haaland is training with the squad

“No. Just Kevin (De Bruyne) was training with us, is training with us. But I don’t know, I still didn’t speak with the doctors either, so we will see. But the closest one (to returning) I had the feeling is maybe Kevin.

“But yeah, we have that game (against Sheffield United) and after we have seven days before Huddersfield, we have six days before Newcastle, and after we have 14 days until the next FA Cup just in case we beat Huddersfield, so in that period maybe we can recover players.”

On whether Kevin De Bruyne will be in the squad against Sheffield United

“I don’t know yet. Let me go to the training session.”

On the size of Kevin De Bruyne’s influence on the second-half of the season when he returns

“It’s massive. To have Kevin (De Bruyne), and Erling (Haaland), and Jeremy (Doku), and John (Stones) available… Ruben (Dias) in the last game was sick, he could not be involved against (Everton). Of course it’s important. In February there will be a lot of games and we have to have everyone. Of course, we’re talking about important figures, important players for us. There’s no doubt about that.”

On whether he will have a conversation with players about security due to more common break-ins at footballer’s properties

“A United player as well (as Joao Cancelo’s break-in), and I don’t know many news in London but it happens. But I think they have security, they have… yeah, but unfortunately it’s happened. Today it happens many times, not just in the UK, I know in Catalunya, and I know more because I’m living there with my family, many things happen.

“Today they have to be careful, definitely. Putting not much on social media, and the less they (criminals) know what they’re doing, the better. But people now are waiting, where you are, what are you doing, and unfortunately it happens. What happened with Joao (Cancelo) was so scary because they had… the family had been attacked.

“At the end it’s difficult, but jewellery or money or whatever, it’s tough but at the end the family being there is difficult to process. It was a tough moment for Jack (Grealish), Joao before. We have to be careful.”

On the sadness behind being careful on social media and posts indicating where you are

“It is what it is. It happens today. This world… Israel, Gaza, it’s happening. Ukraine, Russia, still it’s there. There’s a big difference between (social) classes. Today; people with a lot of money, people struggling, and the people who have a good middle class, the people don’t do that. But today, in the worldwide, it happens. And the people do this kind of thing unfortunately, for many years already.”

On John Stones’ recovery timeframe

“I don’t know, but for a while. Hopefully, maybe, maybe Newcastle, or maybe after Abu Dhabi.”

On whether the squad is now better capable or managing without John Stones

“Well we’ve handled it this season. Still we are there, we are not far away from the top of the league, we won already two titles this season, we are qualified for the last-16 of the Champions League – John is important. I would say that after the game (against Everton) I was a little bit, ‘Why the linesman don’t take a decision (sooner)?!’

“But I saw the action and the referee took a right decision because it was so tight, the offside. And that action has to follow, and after VAR can intervene. But there are actions when it’s so clear, do it, and this action – from my point of view – right now, well decided from the referee. And unfortunately he got injured. It happens.

“So, what can I say? Recover, and hopefully… It could be worse! Always you have to be optimistic on that, and hopefully in two weeks, three weeks, he will be fine.”

On whether the players and squad are capable of covering for John Stones’ absence

“Absolutely! We have to! We have an academy, 11 players. I love to be everyone (together), but when they are not there for many reasons, what can I do? Complain?! It’s not our style. So, John is not there, help him to recover, like Erling (Haaland), like Jeremy (Doku), like Kevin (De Bruyne), and all the players who are not fit and go with the players that we have.”

On whether Kevin De Bruyne is having to be held back due to his desperation to play

“Yeah, absolutely! How he’s training is with a lot of energy. For his mind, and I know injuries are not good for anyone, but I think these two or three months off has been good for him, the desire to come back, to play what he loves, playing football. But now he has to handle…

“When it’s a long injury, with surgery and in muscular, you have to be careful because when it looks like you are perfect, you are not! How many minutes you have to handle and step by step, it’s not to play 90 (minutes) and 90 and after three days, and after three days. So, after that, you will be in trouble!”

On whether Kevin De Bruyne is constantly telling him that he wants to play

“Yeah but I have to speak with him, and especially the doctors, the physios who say OK maybe he can play from half-time, maybe 10 minutes, maybe 20 minutes. Now we are in the process to get him to play and after have seven days to recover, it’s not three days and three days. And if the people need him, we’re going to try to use him!”

On Oscar Bobb

“What I said about Oscar for many times, always when he plays he plays at a high level. I see him in the training sessions every day, his impact is really good, his work ethic, for many, many things, we’re really, really pleased in Oscar! It’s not a player who comes up, comes down from the Academy, he’s already a reality for us and in certain moments he’s going to help us.”

On what a first goal means to a player waiting for his breakthrough

“He proves himself that he can do it. When a performance is that well it’s so important that your mates can rely on you, especially when you are young and come from the academy, and they have an incredible behaviour, playing or not playing, always he’s ready, and he’s a lovely guy, and we are really pleased! So what can I say; he’s young, still a lot of margin to improve, but really pleased he’s here with us.”