EPL

Pep Guardiola still deciding on Erling Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne returns

By Sports Desk April 05, 2024

Pep Guardiola is unsure about whether to restore Erling Haaland and Kevin de Bruyne to his Manchester City line-up at Crystal Palace on Saturday with Real Madrid looming next week.

The pair were unused substitutes in midweek as City stayed three points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool by brushing aside Aston Villa 4-1, with Phil Foden bagging a sensational hat-trick.

But as a visit to Palace at lunchtime on Saturday is followed by a mouthwatering trip to the Spanish capital to face Real on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, this season’s leading goal-scorer Haaland and key playmaker De Bruyne might be kept on ice once again this weekend.

“I don’t know yet,” Guardiola said, when asked about the prospect of Haaland and De Bruyne returning to face Palace. “Playing at 12:30pm and playing two days ago, I have to think. There are so many games.

“We play less than two and a half days after our last game. Some players recover quicker than others. A long week is completely different but a short week, you have to talk with doctors, physios and staff.

“We are used to playing every three days over many months and months. For many, many years it has happened that way.

“We play 12:30pm, it’s perfect. More time to recover for the next game in Madrid. We then play on Saturday against Chelsea in the FA Cup afterwards, it’s not fair but we are going to do it.

“We take one game at a time and don’t give up. We are not new to European competitions so the players know how to handle it, not all the time but most of the time.”

City, who could welcome back goalkeeper Ederson at Selhurst Park but are still without defenders Kyle Walker and Nathan Ake, have dropped just six points in an unbeaten 13-match league run.

But with both Liverpool and Arsenal ahead of them, Guardiola reiterated that all City can do to keep alive hopes of a fourth successive league crown is win all of their eight remaining fixtures.

“I hope so but it doesn’t solve the problem if we don’t do our job,” Guardiola said after being asked about whether he expects their title rivals to drop points.

“If we were at the top of the league it would be in our hands, that’s not the case, so what we have to do is win our games. I hope it happens but we cannot control it.

“The quality of the opponent is why we have to keep going and at the end we will realise which team is there.”

Guardiola, who said he had “no opinion” on rumours of a luxury tax being imposed on Premier League clubs to help regulate on overspending, admitted he is wary of upcoming opponents Palace.

The Eagles have taken points in six of their last 12 meetings with City, winning in December 2018 and October 2021 along with four draws – most recently coming from 2-0 down in December with goals from Jean-Philippe Mateta and Michael Olise.

“They’ve always been tough,” he added. “I think (manager Oliver) Glasner is doing a really good job.

“The quality is there with (Eberechi) Eze, (Jordan) Ayew and Mateta. They have good structure, strong defensively with (Joachim) Andersen leading the back five, the physicality is always there. Selhurst Park is always difficult.”

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