Pep Guardiola has revealed he was unwilling to take any risks with Erling Haaland and opted not to include him in his matchday squad for Saturday’s crunch clash against Liverpool.
The Premier League’s top goalscorer suffered a groin injury that forced him to pull out of Norway’s squad ahead of their Euro 2024 qualifiers against Spain and Georgia.
Haaland was not spotted in training on Thursday before Guardiola revealed at his pre-match press conference on Friday that he would give his main striker every opportunity to prove his fitness.
The City manager, however, has opted not to take any risks with the 22-year-old ahead of a crucial few weeks for the reigning champions.
Speaking to BT Sport before the game, Guardiola said: ‘He is much much better but not fully fit for today. He didn’t feel good, we spoke and said no risk.
Haaland’s injury provided an opportunity for summer signing Julian Alvarez and Guardiola was confident the World Cup winner would be up to the task.
He added: ‘Tactics are players so the quality Erling has is a specific one, Julian has other ones and we are fully confident.
‘During the season always you have this type of problem with injuries and the only thing you can’t do is complain. We have never done it and the players are going to play.’
City were also without Phil Foden, who will miss the next two weeks at least following a bout of appendicitis, while Bernardo Silva was fit enough only to start on the bench after he contracted food poisoning while on international duty.
Guardiola’s side can ill-afford to fall further behind in the title race and the Spaniard confessed he would much rather be in Arsenal’s position at this stage of the season.
‘There are a lot of games of football left and a lot of things can happen,’ he said. ‘We don’t feel as though Arsenal will drop many points but hopefully we can be there as long as possible.
‘I would love to be in Arsenal’s position but until the last moment we will fight. We have done it for many, many years. It is step by step, game by game and we will see what happens.
‘To be in contention for all the competitions, this is amazing. When you win you have the tendency to drop a bit but we are still there and this makes me happy. I feel old.’
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