EPL

Erling Haaland ‘extremely happy’ at Man City despite criticism – Pep Guardiola

By Sports Desk April 12, 2024

Pep Guardiola has dismissed Erling Haaland’s critics and insisted the Manchester City striker is continuing to make a big impact.

Haaland has scored 30 goals for City this term but only one in his last five. After Roy Keane last week claimed the Norway international was comparable to a League Two player in his general play, Jamie Carragher this week described him as “the ultimate luxury footballer” and said he was not world class.

But asked if he was happy with Haaland’s all-round contribution, Guardiola said: “A lot. He helps us to make more spaces in the areas and his contribution has been exceptional since the day he arrived last season.”

Guardiola said pundits “can do whatever they want”, but insisted he was only interested in the performance of his team, who are still in contention to repeat last season’s treble after drawing the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Real Madrid 3-3 on Tuesday night.

City can go top of the Premier League for 24 hours at least if they beat Luton on Saturday, and face an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea next weekend.

“We are quite similar to last season,” Guardiola said. “We scored four goals, four goals, three goals in the last three games, 11 goals in three games.

“And (Haaland) helped us score some of them (by) creating lots of spaces for the other ones to score the goals. I saw in his face, in what he said after the game, in the locker room, he was extremely happy (in Madrid).

“It was a good result, let’s see what happens next Wednesday. Now the target is Luton.”

Bidding to win the Premier League for a fourth straight season, City remain locked in a tight race at the top. They start the weekend a point behind both Arsenal and Liverpool, with their rivals not in action until Sunday.

City have twice won the title on the final day of the season under Guardiola, but this is the first time they have faced a three-way title race so late in the campaign.

“We know what we have to do,” Guardiola said. “We’ve done it. The people say, ‘you’ve done it, so you’re going to win’. No, it’s not about that. But we have done it and know exactly what we have to do.

“The players will be ready. There is no doubt about that. We know what we are playing for.”

Although a treble repeat is still possible, there is a sense City have not been at the same standards this term, with injuries taking a toll.

“(The players) know how tough it has been this season for many reasons, maybe one of the toughest seasons we have faced for sure,” Guardiola added.

“We know exactly internally how difficult it has been in many, many moments this season and we were still there, we were there. I know the players will be ready.”

After Tuesday’s match in Madrid, Rodri had said he was in need of a rest after his 41st appearance of the season. Guardiola indicated any player who wanted a breather need only ask, but that he expects the 27-year-old Spain midfielder to be available to face Luton.

“It is normal,” Guardiola said. “If one player feels that, what is the problem? All the teams who play in the latter stages of all competitions, Champions League, Europa League, fighting for qualifications, or against relegation, all have the same problem with the amount of games…

“I’m pretty sure Rodri will be ready. I know him. After the game he was tired because it was tough, the game against Real Madrid. He came from Crystal Palace and it was really tough as well.

“But I know him. He will arrive and say, ‘I’m fine, I’m ready’.”

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