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Will Haaland start, decision date on Man City future, exit contingency plans – Embargoed section: Pep Guardiola’s pre-Burnley press conference part two



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Manchester City return to Premier League duties this week as they welcome Vincent Kompany back to the Etihad Stadium with his Burnley side on Wednesday night.

Pep Guardiola and his players come into the midweek meeting with the Clarets in a rich vein of form, and particularly buoyed after last week’s FA Cup fourth round triumph away to Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham Hotspur.

Having failed to score a goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium since it’s completed construction, and their last away goal at Spurs coming over eight years ago, it was Nathan Ake’s 88th minute winner that made history for the reigning FA Cup winners.

City are also in strong form in the Premier League, with their last outing coming against Newcastle United at St James’ Park, where an inspired Kevin De Bruyne performance including a goal and an assist from the Belgian recorded a 2-3 win on the road.

With Manchester City almost back at full strength following a number of injury concerns over the past couple of weeks, excitement couldn’t be any higher at the City Football Academy ahead of the pending second-half of the season.

Ahead of the meeting between the reigning Premier League champions and last season’s Championship winners, Pep Guardiola has addressed the media in part two of his pre-match press conference at the CFA!

On whether Vincent Kompany calls much since becoming manager

“In the beginning yes, and now it’s a long time that we have not been in touch. But we are close, Burnley is not far away from here and of course we follow them. So there’s not just Vinny (Kompany), there are many friends that were here – Marc Boixasa – many, many people working here that helped me and helped the team and this club for many years are there. Always we are in touch and keeping one eye on what they are doing.”

On whether he asked Vincent Kompany about Jeremy Doku before signing him

“We spoke, yeah, and we saw a little bit and he was right! I think Vinny (Kompany) has a big talent that, from my point of view, every player that has been with him has got better. He has the ability to, as a collective issue, improve the players and the way they play.”

O​​n whether he has thought about the scenario he would like at Manchester City when he leaves the club

“I try to do my best during this season, and this time together, and hopefully… I don’t know. At the end, what we are doing is trying to do our best when we are involved, when we are here. I’m not thinking much about what we’ll leave for the next people who are going to be in charge. I don’t know. I’m so concerned and focussed about the day-by-day and after I don’t know.”

On the role of Julian Alvarez in the second-half of the season

“When we are all the squad, it depends on how they perform and they will have more or less minutes. They have to compete and I see what I see in the training sessions, I see many things and of course I want everybody involved. But it depends on how they perform. Julian (Alvarez) has been so important and why should it be different from now on? It depends on how they perform.”

On the type of games that would suit Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden playing together

“I don’t know (the difference in games). Right now, I don’t know. I know for example in the ideas when they (opponents) play five-at-the-back we could do it, and the teams that have a lot, a lot, a lot of quality and you have to imagine, you have to drop a little bit or defend a little bit deeper, we should change.

“Normally we move with two holding midfielders, with them we could not do that, with three or five in the middle. There are some adjustments that maybe we should do. But of course they can play together, because if they are able to do it they can. It’s like Julian (Alvarez) for example, alongside Phil (Foden), alongside Erling (Haaland), or Kevin (De Bruyne). None of them can play like a holding midfielder properly. Mateo (Kovacic) or (Ilkay) Gundo in the past with Rodri, so we have to adjust something.”

On when he will give himself time to think about what he wants to do next regarding his future

“I think we have time, we have time… Now I feel really good, like always I have been, but in football situations change a lot. Still I have my opinion that when you have one year and a half left on your contract, it’s a lot, a lot of time in world football. We take time, we have time.”

On how much time he has given himself in the past to make that decision on extending

“No, no, normally the decisions are quick. I trust in my feelings and instinct and every time they offer, of course my family is involved and was involved, but not much time. When I feel that it’s OK, and I feel good, and they want me, OK.

“But we can admit that eight years is a lot of time, next season will be nine seasons, it’s a lot of time, and I have to see the players, how is the behaviours, our standards and can we keep it, and the players follow you, am I tired or not tired, many things are involved in that. It’s not the same as extending after two years, than after nine. It’s completely different. But still I’m here sitting, I’m OK.”

On whether Erling Haaland can start for Manchester City against Burnley

“I want to see the training session (on Tuesday), and still I didn’t think much about the team, the selection a little bit but I have to see something because Vinny (Kompany) makes different shapes and I have to reflect a little bit more.”

On Erling Haaland’s injury and whether the Norway injury was part of the problem

“No. I think it happened against Aston Villa, he didn’t feel good and apparently it was less but at the end it’s the bone, a stress, a little bit of a fracture and needed his time. Now he feels better, he doesn’t have pain, we make three, four, five, six training sessions in a row and he feels good – that is the best news.

“It’s not muscular, it’s the bone, and there’s no pain which is good. But of course it has been two months out – the rhythm and everything – but maybe he’s good from the beginning to start, or maybe from the last minutes, so we will see.”

On whether Erling Haaland has been frustrated on the sidelines

“It has been boring (for him), yeah. Definitely. These guys want to play, but at the same time he refreshed his mind and coming back from the summer time he was a little bit tired. It was the first season in his life he played this amount of games, never ever played this amount, and the intension for the finals that we had – the FA Cup, Champions League, Premier League – he was a little bit tired, mentally.

“And maybe I think it helps to be fresh and now it’s, ‘Wow I want to play and I want to help the team and score goals!’ That’s why maybe for the last part of the season, maybe it will help us. Hopefully it’s going to happen.”

On what he puts his energy down to in his eighth and potentially ninth Manchester City season

“I don’t know. I do the normal things and I have incredible staff to support me, and do the jobs that sometimes I’m too tired to do after many years. I am a more quality manager in terms of selecting better the timing to work, and the timings to disconnect a little bit. And the passion to know still we are there, in three competitions, we won two titles this season, still we are in three competitions more.

“Winning games helps you to have energy. When you are losing games, losing games, you are more tired. To see the team getting better and playing against difficult opponents like Goodison Park after the World Cup or Newcastle away, and Spurs away and seeing how the team behaves gives me, ‘Wow, still we are together, still we are on the same path’.

“That gives you energy. Energy is not switch on, or switch off, you have to restart and re-energise every day, what you see and what you live in your personal life and many things, and this is what I’m living now. That’s why what I said, one year and a half is a lot of time, maybe we’re going down, maybe I lost the team or the team will struggle.

“That’s why we have time to see it and talk and we’ll see how we feel on both sides and we are so clear between the club and myself on those terms. It will not be a problem if we don’t continue, or we have to.”

On teaching himself when to switch off

“No, before when I was in Barcelona it was like that (not being able to switch off). Now I’m able to stay on the sofa watching something on TV and don’t think about football, and that helps me because after I have more desire to reconnect. I learned, before it was all the time thinking because I was thinking, ‘Oh I’m missing something’, or I’m not professional enough.

“And I think I understood that that is a mistake and it’s better to have the quality in what you have to do. Sometimes I rely on my people that helps me to see this kind of things or the other things and make me feel more comfortable and arrive at the end, whether it’s a training session or in front of the players completely fresh, knowing exactly what you have to do.

“This is a key point as a manager when you play every three days or four days. When you play one game a week, it’s not a problem. But we have this for many, many years, it’s not just one season. You have to know yourself better and you have to adjust better what you have to do, and I think in that terms I learned, it’s simple as that. It’s normal, it’s the process, it’s normal.”

On what prompted that change to take distance and become less emotionally attached

“No, no, that doesn’t mean that, I prepare… The players know that. I prepare, we prepare the game incredibly focussed on what we have to do, and it depends on the opponents. Burnley attack differently to Spurs for example, so that’s why you have to defend differently. This is the point on what we have to find. I take it seriously, really, really seriously.

“I don’t want to disappoint my players, I don’t want to disappoint of course our fans, our people that support us, and my people that trust me. And that fact that I don’t want to disappoint them makes me feel I’m there. But before I’m like 24 hours, 24 hours, and now I don’t need 24 hours to prepare for the games because I arrive better, in the right moment, to be in front of the players.”