Manchester City travel to the north-east for their penultimate Premier League outing of the month, as they take on Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United in the top-flight.
City come into the contest hoping to further pile on the pressure on their title rivals this season, who are heading into a period of the campaign where they will be without stars currently competing in African and Asian national team tournaments.
Pep Guardiola’s side continue to compete on three fronts during the second-half of the season, after a 5-0 victory over Huddersfield Town last time out saw the Blues progress into the fourth round of the FA Cup, where Tottenham Hotspur await in an away clash for the current holders.
2024 also welcomes back the UEFA Champions League for Manchester City as FC Copenhagen await in the last-16 of the competition, balanced alongside Pep Guardiola and his players’ pursuit of an unprecedented fourth successive top-flight crown.
This month however, Guardiola is likely to have to compete for success without a number of key stars, as fresh updates have provided somewhat damning blows on Erling Haaland, John Stones, and most recently, Manuel Akanji.
Speaking during part two of his pre-match press conference, manager Pep Guardiola discussed various fitness and injury updates concerning his first-team squad, as well as the rise of Phil Foden and the Englishman’s importance.
On whether Erling Haaland has been training this week
“No. A little bit (of a setback), but he’s fine. A little bit of a problem, a little bit of disturbance in his feet, and the doctors decided to stop (him training for) one week, and restart maybe in Abu Dhabi and hopefully at the end of this month he’ll be ready.
“It was a little bit more than we expected at the beginning, in his bone, and the bone needs time. Every injury you can do whatever you want, it’s a question of time, and at the end of this month maybe he’ll be ready to come back.”
On being out for nearly two months
“In the toughest period, when you have… Now you have injury, a little bit of a disturbance, now you have two games. But when you are injured at the end of November, beginning of December, you miss a lot of games, and we miss him! It is what it is!”
On John Stones and Manuel Akanji
“Yeah, Manu Akanji as well is injured. Manu as well, yeah he had an action against Huddersfield, he’ll be some weeks out, few weeks.”
On whether Manuel Akanji is a serious injury
“Well, yeah, until the end of the month, yeah. I don’t know about the FA Cup against Spurs, or Burnley, if he’ll be ready. Now we are lucky that we don’t have games in the next 10 days, after tomorrow’s game against Newcastle, but we will see in Abu Dhabi with a good weather how they feel.”
On how impressed he has been with Manchester City in how they have attacked without Erling Haaland
“A lot. I said to your friend, I’m really pleased with the team for many aspects. We don’t want to stop, knowing it’s difficult, it’s really, really difficult because the opponents are stronger every year. But not just him (Erling Haaland), Jack (Grealish) was up and downs, again now, before was a problem, virus now, and has another virus, he was injured, arrived late in pre-season, John Stones has not been here, like all the teams.
“Newcastle, it’s the first time they play a lot of competitions, before it was just one game a week, now they play Carabao Cup, FA Cup, of course Champions League is so demanding. To be not used to it is normal, this amount of games, even a lot of effort from the previous season, and in the end, the moments, it happens. That’s why the guys still are fit and they were fine, they were OK, they still behave really, really, really good!”
On whether the January break is the ‘calm before the storm’
“It was really good, it will be really, really good! To be together there, having three or four days with families and after we’ll be together there (in Abu Dhabi), training, we go there to train and stay there but changing a little bit the scenario, changing a little bit the routine always is nice. The experience that we had there always helps, hopefully this season it can help too!”
On Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden’s link-up play
“Yeah, really pleased. I think Phil (Foden) is playing, after the Fulham game, at the Club World Cup there, and here, I think one of the best moments I ever seen since we are together! Hopefully he can continue being stable in his private life and training, he loves to play football, and being decisive in those terms, in terms of goals and assists and rhythms.
“And Julian (Alvarez), since the beginning of the season as well, both are really, really important because they have a sense of goal to create something, they are really important. But of course, we miss a lot Erling (Haaland) so we need him to hopefully come back and play the last four, five months of the season without problems.”
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