Manchester City striker Erling Haaland is still in contention to play in Saturday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool, with Pep Guardiola set to make a late fitness call.
The Norwegian forward – who leads the scoring charts with 28 goals in 26 appearances – missed the international break after feeling discomfort in his groin following City’s FA Cup win over Burnley earlier this month.
Haaland’s problem was only thought to be minor, but he was not spotted in training on Thursday which prompted suggestions he had not recovered in time for the visit of Liverpool.
But manager Pep Guardiola says Haaland – who ‘feels good’ – will be assessed after City’s final training session on Friday afternoon and has not ruled him out of the Liverpool match just yet.
Asked about Haaland’s availability, Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference: ‘We’ll see this afternoon. We have the last training session at 4pm today so then we will see how he feels.’
Probed further, he added: ‘We’ll see today. And again the doctors, and especially the player, will decide.
‘How does he feel? Yesterday I spoke with him he feels good, but we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. Life is risky in stages, we have to take it. We’ve scored a lot of goals this season, he’s scored an incredible amount of goals. In the past always we have scored a lot of goals.’
On whether his plans for facing Liverpool will change depending on Haaland’s availability, Guardiola replied: ‘No, because the football is the quality of the players. When you play with the typical players that you need, the tactic is the skills for every player.
‘Erling has his skills, Julian [Alvarez] has his own skills. He gives us one thing, he gives us another, and playing with a false nine gives us another skill. So it depends.
‘We saw the people come back yesterday, most of the players from international break, we couldn’t do much. Today it’s a little bit and then we’ll see today the last assessment and then we’ll decide.’
Haaland’s father, Alfie, provided an update on the injury last week, telling Norway’s TV2: ‘Manchester City has a partnership with a hospital in Barcelona so he has been there for further checks and treatment.
‘Now he has been here [in Marbella] for a couple of days with the physio from the club. Firstly, I’m not a doctor and secondly, I think it’s touch and go [to face Liverpool], yes. You can’t just go two weeks without training and then jump right into a fight. There must be a progression there.
‘They can gamble on it, but if he doesn’t get proper training with the team, then he won’t play. It is about how he responds to treatment in the next few days. He needs a lot of care and knuckling. There are many sprints and there is a lot to move.
‘It was very surprising. I knew nothing. He called me and said that they had taken some pictures and found something that was not good.
‘He would very much like to have played these two international matches. But he must prioritise his health, try to get his body back in place. Based on the assumptions, he is doing well, but he is very sad.’
City can call upon World Cup winner Julian Alvarez to replace Haaland if needed – with the Argentine averaging a goal every 168 minutes across the Premier League and Champions League – or Guardiola could opt to play with a false nine.
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