Pep Guardiola has no doubt Erling Haaland will score goals for Manchester City but insists he does not care how many he gets.

The Premier League champions, who begin their title defence at West Ham on Sunday, secured the services of one of the most sought-after players in the world when Haaland's move from Borussia Dortmund was announced in June.

However, the Norwegian's debut did not go according to plan as he drew a blank in a 3-1 Community Shield loss to Liverpool.

Asked how many goals Haaland will score this season, Guardiola's response was initially jovial as he replied: "You are the guy who's going to ask me about Haaland at every press conference, right? Welcome to Manchester."

He added: "I don't know how many goals he's going to score and I don't care.

"We are not going to win for Erling and we are not going to lose for Erling. He has to be himself. From what I've seen he's going to adapt quick.

"He played one week ago his first 90 minutes in five months. He's a big figure in terms of physicality and needs maybe more time to get in the best condition.

"If people have doubts he's going to score goals, he's going to score goals.

"The chances are always there. He's a good finisher, so just adapt the way he plays and we're going to do that to him.

"At the same time I don't have any doubts it's going to happen.

"The goals he's going to score, I don't care."

The schedule this term will present a new challenge as the Qatar World Cup falls in the middle of the campaign, taking place from November 21 to December 18.

Guardiola believes there are effectively two seasons within one, and acknowledged there is precious little room for error as City seek to fend off the persistent threat of Liverpool and other contenders.

"It's like two Premier Leagues in one Premier League," he said. "There's one Premier League before the World Cup. You cannot win the Premier League [before the World Cup] but you can lose it.

"It's not just Liverpool. They will not drop much, so this is why you have to start well. We won two Premier Leagues being just one point ahead of Liverpool. That means we are able to win 11, 12, 15 or 14 games in a row if we can do it. Liverpool as well.

"We proved ourselves we can do it in the past, and if you can do it in the past you can do it in the present. I have the feeling the rivals will not drop many points, we know.

"I have the feeling since we arrived... the team I rely on them a lot and I see in every training session that the guys are still out there. How they train every day. That makes me feel, okay, we'll see what happens.

"I think we're still there, we'll be there, and that's the most important thing. When I see the relations they have in the locker room and the incredible focus they have in training sessions, what we are doing so far is really good.

"We'll see what happens in the good moments and the low moments in the season, how we react and how we behave."

Cristiano Ronaldo faces an uncertain Manchester United future, but he stands to pass a string of landmarks if he stays and plays for Erik ten Hag this season.

Tottenham's Harry Kane, set to captain England at the World Cup later in the year, is chasing a significant club landmark.

And guess who will join Mohamed Salah in bidding to set an opening-day career goals record.

Of course, it's......  Jamie Vardy.

As the new season gets under way on Friday, Stats Perform looks at the records and milestones coming into view.

KANE, RONALDO, HAALAND: TARGETS IN THE CROSSHAIRS OF THE BIG GUNS

What role Ronaldo has to play remains in the balance, given he appears keen to leave United for a second time.

But if the 37-year-old features for the Red Devils, he can begin to chase down landmarks. For starters, he is just four victories short of having had a hand in 150 United wins in the Premier League, having drawn 43 times and lost 37 while a member of the team across his two Old Trafford spells.

Ronaldo is a mere six goals away from becoming the first player to amass 500 goals in Europe's top five leagues. His record 494 goals to date have come from 616 league matches. On his heels, however, is perennial rival Lionel Messi, once of Barcelona and now at Paris Saint-Germain (480 goals in 546 league games).

Kane is 17 away from hitting the 200-goal mark in the Premier League, a total only ever achieved by Alan Shearer (260) and Wayne Rooney (208). Sergio Aguero (184) and Andy Cole (187), third and fourth on the Premier League era list, are poised to be knocked down a peg as Kane continues his assault on the league record.

Both Leicester City's Vardy and Liverpool's Salah will be looking to equal or break the Premier League matchday one goals record, which is currently held jointly by Shearer, Frank Lampard and Rooney (eight goals). Vardy and Salah have seven each, like the retired Teddy Sheringham and Aguero.

Manchester City new boy Erling Haaland has caused a sensation with his goalscoring wherever he has played, dazzling for Molde, Salzburg, Borussia Dortmund and Norway. He could become the seventh Norwegian to score on his Premier League debut, and the third to do so in the opening game of a season, after Tore Andre Flo for Chelsea in 1997-98 and Adama Diomande in 2016-17 with Hull City.

DESERVES A LONG SERVICE MEDAL

Liverpool's James Milner, fresh from signing a new one-year contract, is 12 short of reaching 600 Premier League games. Only three players have reached that mark to date: Gareth Barry (653), Ryan Giggs (632) and Lampard (609).

Milner made his Premier League debut for Leeds United as a 16-year-old in November 2002, so a 20-year anniversary is approaching for the former England midfielder.

David Moyes was already a Premier League manager by the time Milner made his first appearance. At Everton then, he has done the rounds since and is a mere two games away from completing 1,000 matches in all competitions as a manager in English football.

Now at West Ham, Moyes looks to be at the opposite end of his touchline career to Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal manager who is one away from bringing up his first 50 wins as a Premier League boss.

STICK AROUND LONG ENOUGH...

Only six teams have been constant members of the Premier League since its first year in 1992-93. Completing the first 30 seasons without suffering the indignity of relegation have been Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Everton and Arsenal. Sooner or later, all sorts of landmarks arrive for these league lynchpins.

Arsenal have lost 249 Premier League games and headed into Friday night's season opener against Crystal Palace under threat of becoming the 13th side to lose 250. They would have had the longest wait to lose 250, however, having already played four games more than Chelsea, who took the longest (1,148 games) of those to have reached the not-so-desirable milestone.

Tottenham, another of those stalwart sides, are just five away from becoming the fifth team to score 1,000 goals at home in the competition (Manchester United 1,214, Liverpool 1,156, Arsenal 1,154, Chelsea 1,121).

Chelsea are 27 shy of 2,000 goals, home or away, having plundered 1,973 in their 1,152 games to date.

Aston Villa and Newcastle United are both 12 short of losing 400 Premier League games. Only West Ham (408) and Everton (414) have lost more games than those sides, who will hope to avoid spilling over that barrier this season.

West Ham are four away from reaching 1,000 Premier League games, while promoted Nottingham Forest are two away from 200.

MAKING UP THE NUMBERS

Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson needs one assist to become only the second defender to register 50 Premier League assists, after Leighton Baines (Wigan, Everton). Robertson has 49, with Baines managing 53 across his career.

Aston Villa veteran Ashley Young and Tottenham new arrival Richarlison are two shy of reaching 50 Premier League goals, while Newcastle's former Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope is four away from 50 clean sheets in the competition.

Brighton and Hove Albion are two away from 50 wins, with Aston Villa four short of 300 draws, a tally that only Everton (320) have reached.

Southampton need four victories to reach 100 away wins, and Aston Villa want four three-pointers on the road to reach their 150 wins. Leicester, on the other hand, are four away from 150 Premier League away defeats. Brendan Rodgers will hope to fend off that landmark until well into the new campaign.

When Jack Grealish charged into the penalty area in the 87th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu late last season and saw his shot cleared off the line by Ferland Mendy, there seemed no way Manchester City would not be in the Champions League final.

They were 1-0 up in the semi-final second leg, 5-3 ahead on aggregate. Real Madrid had three minutes plus stoppage time to turn things around – even for a side who produced some memorable comebacks en route to the semi-finals, turning this tie around looked impossible.

Yet the tale unfolded in a matter of minutes, with City's Champions League aspirations dissolving for another season.

Over the course of the two legs, City were comfortably the better team and yet failed to advance to the final in Paris, where Madrid went on to beat Liverpool 1-0.

City's failure served to highlight a key deficiency in their squad.

Whether that's fair or not is up for debate, because they subsequently went on to win a fourth Premier League title in five years, and no one would have questioned the legitimacy of them seeing off Madrid, but when the victor is led by the type of figure the loser is lacking, it's an easy conclusion to jump to.

Karim Benzema may not have been at his unplayable best in that second leg, but he won and converted the ultimately decisive penalty, and the effectiveness with which he led the line in the first game ensured Madrid were still in with a shout upon the return to Spain.

City will now hope they have such a goalscoring talisman in Erling Haaland.

After a slightly unconvincing City debut in the Community Shield last week, failing to score against Liverpool from his game-high 1.04 expected goals (xG), Haaland will make his Premier League bow as the new season begins this weekend, with attention sure to soon turn to European action.

City apparently paid £51.3million (€60m) to Borussia Dortmund for his transfer. Even when you consider the apparently significant agents' fees, it is difficult to see this as anything other than a bargain for City.

The dust may now have settled on City's 2021-22 collapse in the Spanish capital, but it's hard not to look at the deal through the prism of Champions League failure because of what will now be expected – rather than hoped for – with a player like Haaland in the team.

When trying to understand what has specifically gone wrong for City in the Champions League since Pep Guardiola was hired, most observers seem to have different opinions. Some might point to an apparent lack of on-field leaders, others highlight wastefulness at crucial moments, and of course there are many who have bemoaned Pep's dreaded "overthinking".

The idea of there being a lack of on-field leaders has always seemed wide of the mark, while no one can accuse Guardiola of overcomplicating his selections against Madrid. Even if one were to try to claim that, City were on course for the final until the 90th minute of the second leg.

Similarly, wastefulness is something most clubs can be accused of at one time or another, and, in fact, across all the Champions League ties from which City have been eliminated under Guardiola, they have scored 17 times from 16.99 xG. Granted, there were occasions where they didn't score as often as they should have, but over time it evens itself out.

Yet perhaps this is where Haaland can make the difference. Sure, City's xG has evened out over the unsuccessful ties in question, but with a striker as freakishly deadly as the Norwegian – last Saturday at the King Power Stadium excepted – there becomes a greater opportunity to finish chances that maybe you wouldn't generally expect to.

Following his Bundesliga debut on January 18, 2020, Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund in all competitions, averaging a goal every 84 minutes.

Only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski (123 goals in 108 games) boasted a better scoring rate over that period among players from Europe's top five leagues.

Despite struggling with injuries in the 2021-22 season, Haaland still managed 29 goals in 30 games for BVB, including a strike in his final game. Twenty-one of those goals were scored via his favoured left foot, three came via his right and the other five were headers.

One thing you cannot accuse City of is being ineffective when it comes to controlling football matches and creating chances – they wouldn't have enjoyed the success they have in the Premier League, under intense pressure from an incredible Liverpool side, if not.

But in knockout ties when there is such a limited amount of time to respond to setbacks or make amends for certain mistakes, whether defensive or in front of goal, the value of the greatest strikers can shine through even more: Benzema showed that against City.

While there remain stylistic compatibility questions to be asked regarding City and Haaland – there were occasions last week when dangerous runs were not quite met by passes, as City adjust to playing with an out-and-out striker – they suddenly have arguably the finest finisher of his generation in their arsenal.

If Haaland isn't the final piece of the puzzle in City's quest for a maiden Champions League crown, Guardiola might as well give up.

It may feel like it has only been away for a few weeks, but the Premier League is back on Friday, meaning time is running out for you to get your fantasy team into shape.

With all the transfers and new teams to keep track of, getting a fantasy team that you're happy with on the opening day can be a tricky task.

Has the new striker settled? Can the promoted defence remain solid in a higher division? That guy scored goals in another country, but can he translate that form to the Premier League?

There is lots to take into account, but Stats Perform have crunched the Opta numbers in the aim of giving you a hand, so here are four picks that might be worth considering…

JOSE SA (Leeds United v Wolves)

The likes of Alisson and Ederson might be more likely to get clean sheet points for you, but many fantasy football players see goalkeeper as an area to save a bit of cash.

Sa could be a solid option to consider if that sounds like you. The Portuguese keeper prevented more goals than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League last season (8.5), according to expected goals data – the next best was David de Gea with 2.8.

Similarly, only Alisson (76) had a better save percentage (75) than Sa (minimum 1,000 minutes played), highlighting just how dependable he was when called upon.

REECE JAMES (Everton v Chelsea)

Even though he missed a chunk of the season through injury, James was a standout performer when he was fit.

His 14 goal involvements (five goals, nine assists) was a joint-Premier League high among defenders alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold, though the latter played almost 1,000 minutes more.

That haul gave him an average of one goal involvement every 133 minutes. Of all the defenders to play at least 90 minutes, that was the best record. He might be pricey, but James could be a real asset.

DEJAN KULUSEVSKI (Tottenham v Southampton)

It is not easy to come into a team mid-season and impress almost instantly, but that's essentially what Kulusevski did last term, proving a hugely reliable player as Tottenham went on to clinch Champions League qualification.

The service he provided to his fellow attackers was invaluable as he recorded eight assists – between his debut on February 9 and the end of the season, no Premier League player set up more goals.

He also chipped in with five goals of his own, giving him a goal involvement total (13) that was only bettered by Karry Kane, Son Heung-min (both 19) and Kevin De Bruyne (15) over the same period.

If he can reach that level again, Kulusevski will be a fantasy favourite.

GABRIEL JESUS (Crystal Palace v Arsenal)

Most people will be making Erling Haaland their main choice in attack – you can't blame anyone for that, but he does have a certain cost.

Jesus may have only left Manchester City because of Haaland, but the early indications are the Brazil international and Arsenal could be a great marriage. He'll be cheaper than the man who has replaced him at the Etihad Stadium, too.

But also, we shouldn't overlook how good a player Jesus – who scored seven in five pre-season games – actually is. After all, only once before has he managed more goal involvements (16) than he did last season, and he was mostly playing from the right wing.

Additionally, his minutes per goal involvement ratio in the Premier League (minimum 1,000 minutes played) since his debut is the fifth best (107) – now he'll be a regular starter, and many expect him to blossom.

Borussia Dortmund coach Edin Terzic is "fully convinced" of the quality in his squad, despite a lack of firepower up front.

Dortmund sold Erling Haaland to Manchester City, with the Norway forward moving on after two-and-a-half years in the Bundesliga.

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 appearances across all competitions for Dortmund, who brought in Sebastien Haller as the 22-year-old's replacement.

However, the former Ajax and West Ham striker was last month found to have a malignant testicular tumour, with Dortmund confirming the 28-year-old will now undergo chemotherapy.

That has left Terzic, who has replaced Marco Rose as coach, with Donyell Malen – who managed only five league goals in his first season at Dortmund – as his likely striker choice for Saturday's Bundesliga opener against Bayer Leverkusen.

 

Terzic has no doubt over the quality at his disposal, though he suggested Dortmund will look to bring in another forward before the end of the transfer window.

"A coach's job is to find the best internal solution with the players available," he said in a news conference. "I am fully convinced and we are fully convinced of our squad, of the qualities in the squad. 

"That we also said before the season that we lost something in the centre of attack with the departure of Erling Haaland, which we then wanted to make up for by signing Sebastien. 

"And when these qualities are not available, then of course you have to think about it. We are doing that now. We are in a very close and trusting exchange. 

"But the job of a coach now is to find the best possible solution with the available players that are there. And with the players available, I'm convinced that we can have a very, very good season."

One player who will not be available for Saturday is Niklas Sule. The centre-back signed from Bayern Munich on a free transfer, but suffered an injury in the DFB-Pokal win over 1860 Munich on July 29.

"Unfortunately, Niklas injured his muscle in the first half of the game," Terzic explained. "On the front [of the] thigh. He wanted to keep playing. To be on the safe side, we substituted him at half-time. 

"Unfortunately, he wasn't able to train with us this week, so he's not yet available for the coming weekend. He's already pain-free, so we're slowly starting to not only treat him with therapy. We just hope it doesn't take too long."

Death, taxes and Bayern Munich winning the Bundesliga title.

It is slightly paraphrasing the old idiom to say these are the only three things certain in life.

Such is the optimism of football fandom, though, the question always arises ahead of the new campaign whether this year will be the one where someone steps up and takes Bayern's throne.

The 2021-22 season saw the Bavarian giants claim their 10th Bundesliga title in a row, with Julian Nagelsmann leading Bayern to the championship by eight points in his first season at the Allianz Arena.

Since Jurgen Klopp's exciting Borussia Dortmund side of 2011-12, no team has been able to halt the relentless Bayern dominance of German football.

In fact, in the last decade, only the 2018-19 campaign saw anyone finish closer than the eight points Dortmund were behind last season, when BVB were just two points shy of their Der Klassiker rivals.

How can anyone seriously make the argument that their run will halt any time soon then? Well, let Stats Perform have a go as we take a look at some of the reasons why Bayern might struggle to maintain their stranglehold in 2022-23.

 

Loss of Lewy means new Bayern approach

Bayern's signing of Robert Lewandowski from Dortmund in 2014 was one of the catalysts for their concerted period of dominance.

However, after eight years of service and 238 goals in 253 Bundesliga games for Bayern, the Poland striker wanted to move on and eventually sealed a transfer to Barcelona.

His goals-per-game ratio in the German top flight of 0.94 bested even the great Gerd Muller (0.85), and his loss was certainly not one Bayern had planned for, with the club initially indicating they expected him to honour the final year of his contract, before finally relenting.

Despite being 33 years old, Lewandowski's impact had not waned at all, with him scoring 50 goals in all club competitions last season, making it seven consecutive seasons with at least 40 goals to his name.

Nagelsmann has insisted his team will evolve in Lewandowski's absence, though, and the signing of Sadio Mane appears to suggest that.

After Lewandowski's sale was confirmed, Nagelsmann told BR24: "I'm not worried right now, we are very well-equipped offensively and I'm still spoiled for choice. We have a possibility of building FC Bayern without a striker that can reliably score 40 goals."

With 120 goals in all competitions for Liverpool, Mane averaged a goal every 178.3 minutes for the Reds – a return of one in slightly under two matches. He also assisted 37 goals, meaning he was directly involved in a goal every 137 minutes.

In the Premier League, only Harry Kane (134), former team-mate Mohamed Salah (118) and Leicester City's Jamie Vardy (104) scored more goals than Mane (90) over the course of his Liverpool career.

His scoring rate has never been close to that of Lewandowski, though he has played a significant amount of his career on the left of a front three rather than through the middle, where he ended last season for Liverpool and is expected to mostly play at Bayern.

That means the likes of Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman, Jamal Musiala and Thomas Muller will need to step up and contribute more goals, while it will be interesting to see if 17-year-old striker Mathys Tel will feature much in his first season after signing from Rennes.

The club has also added Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui from Ajax, while former Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt has arrived from Juventus to replace the outgoing Niklas Sule, who chose to swap Munich for Dortmund when his contract expired.

Will Dortmund finally solve flakiness issue?

Marco Rose looked to be a very astute appointment in 2021, but the former Borussia Monchengladbach boss just did not work out at Dortmund.

Rose has been replaced by Edin Terzic, who enjoyed a spell as caretaker boss in the second half of the 2020-21 campaign, winning the DFB-Pokal.

Terzic now has the reins permanently and has two big jobs on his hands.

The first is fixing a leaky defence, which conceded 52 goals in the Bundesliga last season, more than any other team to finish in the top eight, and only one goal fewer than relegated Arminia Bielefeld.

The club may have addressed the issue in the transfer market as they have essentially procured the German national team's central defence by adding Sule from Bayern on a free transfer and the highly rated Nico Schlotterbeck from Freiburg.

Schlotterbeck won 69 per cent of his duels in the Bundesliga last season, the joint-most of all players who contested at least 100 duels, while Sule was third with 68 per cent.

Another issue that needed addressing was similar to Bayern's Lewandowski issue, with Erling Haaland having departed for Manchester City.

The Norwegian scored 86 goals in 89 appearances at Dortmund, including 22 of their 85 league goals last season, though he was only able to feature in 24 games due to injury.

Sebastien Haller was signed to replace Haaland but will unfortunately miss the first few months of the campaign after undergoing surgery for a testicular tumour.

The addition of exciting young talent Karim Adeyemi from Salzburg will give them a dynamic in attack they have missed since selling Jadon Sancho to Manchester United, while in Haller's absence it will be interesting to see if Youssoufa Moukoko, still just 17-years-old, can add to the five Bundesliga goals he already has to his name.

Having also signed defensive midfielder Salih Ozcan from Cologne to provide some steel alongside Jude Bellingham, who it appears they will be keeping hold of for another season at least, the balance of a frequently wobbly side could be there for Terzic to build some momentum.

Best of the rest

Bayer Leverkusen enjoyed a strong campaign last season and have replaced Lucas Alario with promising Czech striker Adam Hlozek.

They also appear to have fought off interest in Moussa Diaby so it would not be a surprise to see them go well again, but with Champions League football to contend with, questions remain whether they have the depth of squad to excel on all fronts.

RB Leipzig will hope to provide a challenge and have also kept hold of their star player in Christopher Nkunku, though losing Tyler Adams and Nordi Mukiele will be a blow, while Eintracht Frankfurt will want to build on last season's Europa League success.

It would be churlish to write Bayern off, of course. They go into the season as heavy favourites and rightly so.

 

Mane might not have the same goalscoring output as Lewandowski, but football has proven time and again that having one player who scores lots of goals is not the only way to be successful.

The African Football Player of the Year has the chance to be the face of the new Bayern, where everyone will be expected to chip in and Nagelsmann can truly cement his ideas on the team.

However, while Bayern have been somewhat forced into a new era, Dortmund appear to have reached theirs more by design and if everything clicks early on for Terzic, an exciting title race could develop.

After all, the only thing that is certain about football is that nothing is certain.

Sergio Aguero does not understand why Manchester City sold Raheem Sterling to Chelsea, while also suggesting Erling Haaland will need time to adapt to the Premier League.

City sold Sterling to Chelsea for a fee in the region of £45million last month, with the England international following fellow forward Gabriel Jesus out of the exit door and to London, with the latter having joined Arsenal along with Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Sterling scored 17 goals in all competitions for Pep Guardiola's team last season, a tally only bettered by Riyad Mahrez (24) and Kevin De Bruyne (19), as they conducted a successful defence of their title, but wanted guaranteed game time that City were unable to offer.

That, in part, was due to the signing of Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, while Julian Alavrez has also arrived to bolster a prolific frontline that features Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Mahrez.

Yet Sterling's former team-mate and City's record goalscorer Aguero was confused by the decision to sell the 27-year-old to a Premier League rival.

"I don't understand the sale of Sterling," said Aguero on his Twitch channel.

"There are times they [City] make strange decisions."

Haaland struggled on his competitive City debut, cutting a frustrated figure as Pep Guardiola's team went down 3-1 to Liverpool in the Community Shield on Saturday.

The Norway international only managed three touches in the opening 30 minutes, all of which came in his own half, and he missed the best chance of the game from open play, according to Opta's expected goals model, when he struck the crossbar from six yards out deep in stoppage time.

"He was too used to Germany," Aguero said of the 22-year-old's performance.

"Haaland thought he was alone, then [Virgil] van Dijk arrived and said 'welcome to the Premier League'."

Alvarez did however impress, coming on from the bench to add a different dimension to City's attack and dragging them level when he bundled in from close range following a goalmouth scramble.

Asked what advice he gave to his compatriot when Alvarez signed for City, Aguero quipped: "Julian sent me a message to find out how life is in Manchester. I told him that he was going to be very cold!"

City start their Premier League campaign away at West Ham on Sunday, while Sterling will likely receive his competitive bow for Chelsea at Everton a day earlier.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has insisted he has no concerns about Erling Haaland after he was unable to strike a debut goal against Liverpool.

The Premier League champions fell to a 3-1 defeat against Jurgen Klopp's side at the King Power Stadium, with the Norwegian seeing both an effort disallowed and hitting the frame of the goal.

Plenty of expectation has been placed upon Haaland following his big-money move to English football and, with Liverpool's own expensive recruit Darwin Nunez starting on the bench, the stage was set for the forward to make an impact.

City's number nine was unable to do so, while Nunez came off the bench to win a penalty and score Liverpool's third, but Guardiola remained confident his new recruit will be firing in goals throughout the course of the campaign.

"He had chances, two or three in the first half, one at the end, fought a lot, made the movements," he told a news conference.

"Good for him to see the reality, a new country, new league. He was there. Today he didn't score, other days he will score.

"No [worries about the chances that he missed]. He has the quality. He has an incredible sense. We had just two weeks, the team was good in the States. I am really comfortable. The season starts now."

Haaland's big moment came in the latter stages of the match, where the former Borussia Dortmund man struck the crossbar from point-blank range but, while it will likely lead to jibes from rival fans, Guardiola downplayed the incident.

"He is strong, he missed it, another time he would put it in the net. What is the problem? It happened, it is football," he added.

"There was another goal disallowed because the ball was out of the line and he scored. He would do it. It's good to understand sometimes, he needs that situation to understand okay, this is what to do. It's good.

"I am not concerned or worried about that. He would be happy if we won, he scored goals, everyone would be, but the reality is it is a long 11 months.

"We have two, three months ahead of us before the World Cup, so intense, and then after that this season is every three days, four days, and Erling is going to score, I am sure of it."

"They're not used to Erling's natural runs yet, like we're not used to Darwin's. They'll need some time for Erling, but that doesn't mean he can't score."

Jurgen Klopp's assessment of Erling Haaland and Manchester City on Friday could easily have gone against the Liverpool manager.

After all, add in a great goalscorer to an already great team and surely the result can only be more greatness? But in   Saturday's Community Shield game – taking place at Leicester City's King Power Stadium – Klopp's words rang true, and instead it was City's Julian Alvarez and Liverpool's Darwin Nunez who each made their mark.

Liverpool ran out the victors in this latest instalment of English football's new number one rivalry, as City lost the season's curtain-raiser for a second successive year. It was new signing Nunez – named as a substitute when Haaland had been given the nod from the off for the Reds' opponents – who added gloss in a 3-1 victory that makes it advantage Klopp in the rivalry stakes for the coming season.

It was easy to forget, due to the vociferous atmosphere emanating from both ends, that this match amounts to what is essentially an exhibition, even if Pep Guardiola has often cited the Community Shield as a major trophy – one that Klopp had not previously won.

The intensity in the stands was matched by the players, especially in one spell midway through the first half when the tenacious Bernardo Silva sparked a flurry of robust tackles in midfield.

Liverpool dominated the opening stages, enjoying 57 per cent possession in the first 15 minutes and going close through Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson.

 

It has been an off-season of change for City. Kalvin Phillips and Alvarez have joined Haaland through the door, but Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Oleksandr Zinchenko have left, and a lack of fluidity to the Premier League champions' play was noticeable as they laboured to get out of first gear.

There was a moment prior to Trent Alexander-Arnold's 21st-minute opener, when Kevin De Bruyne spun clear of his marker and Haaland looked all set to burst through and square up Liverpool's stand-in goalkeeper Adrian, yet the Belgian's pass was just too close to Virgil van Dijk.

That summed up a hugely frustrating first half for City's new number nine, who only had three touches prior to the half-hour mark, all of which came in his own half.

Alexander-Arnold's strike, his 10th Reds goal from outside the area, led to red smoke bombs being thrown onto the pitch from a jubilant Liverpool end, and City at that stage looked punch-drunk.

Then, the chances came. First, Haaland drilled at Adrian while off-balance, before he just failed to get proper purchase on a cross from the left – Riyad Mahrez heading into Adrian's arms on the rebound.

In normal pre-season circumstances, Guardiola might well have taken Haaland off when he made his first changes just before the hour, but it was instead Mahrez and Jack Grealish who made way for Alvarez and Phil Foden. At the same time, Klopp introduced Nunez for his domestic bow.

Nunez's impact was near-instant, getting in behind City's line and drawing a desperate lunge from Ederson in the area, but the linesman flagged for offside rather than a Liverpool penalty. Soon after, City's goalkeeper made a brave stop to deny the former Benfica forward.

Where one substitute went close, another then hit the net. In an interview in the matchday programme, Alvarez insisted his focus was not on matching Haaland, but instead on improving his own game. It was the Argentine forward who bundled in City's equaliser after Phil Foden forced Adrian into a save, with VAR overturning an incorrect offside call.

If City and Haaland might need time to gel fully, then the opposite should be true for Alvarez, who was a livewire from the moment he came on, becoming the third Argentinian to score in the Community Shield, after former City strikers Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez.

Though where VAR had come to City's aid for Alvarez's goal, it helped Liverpool 10 minutes later, when a Nunez header struck the arm of Ruben Dias, which referee Craig Pawson deemed to have been in an unnatural position upon checking the screen.

For all the talk of new striker signings at both club, it was perhaps fitting that a familiar face in Salah stepped up for the penalty to remind everyone involved of his quality with a firm finish into the bottom-right corner.

Arguably the most important business Liverpool could have done in the close season was their July 1 move to tie Salah down to a new contract, and the 30-year-old has been directly involved in 13 goals for Liverpool against City, his most against a single side for the Reds.

Haaland had the ball in the net at the other end early in seven minutes of stoppage time, but it did not count – Foden had failed to keep it in. Moments later, Nunez stooped low to head in Robertson's cross. He is the fourth player to have scored on his competitive Liverpool debut under Klopp, after Salah, Van Dijk and Salah.

If there was any further evidence needed that this day would not be Haaland's, the 22-year-old hit the crossbar with the goal gaping with very nearly the last kick of the match to send Liverpool's fans into further delirium. It was the best chance of the match from open play, with an xG (expected goals) rating of 0.54. He was at least able to laugh it off as a bad day at the office, but goalscorers as prolific as him do not take misses like that well.

The former Borussia Dortmund player had just 16 touches over the 90 minutes.

Haaland's day will come, perhaps even against West Ham in City's Premier League opener, but on Saturday's evidence, Liverpool have adapted to their new striker swifter than their great rivals have theirs.

 

Darwin Nunez capped a memorable debut with a clinching header as Liverpool earned a 3-1 victory against Manchester City in the Community Shield.

The Uruguay international nodded home from close range deep into injury time to confirm the first silverware of the season heads to Merseyside after an energetic, enthralling encounter at Leicester's King Power Stadium.

Trent Alexander-Arnold's first-half strike had been cancelled out by Julian Alvarez with 20 minutes to go, before Mohamed Salah put the Reds back on top from the penalty spot.

It was then Nunez whose goal made sure Jurgen Klopp completed his career clean sweep of elite English domestic honours.

The new man was forced to wait for his debut, however, after being initially named on the bench, and Liverpool did not look to need him thanks to an energetic start out of the gates.

Alexander-Arnold unfurled a fabulous strike from the edge of the box in off the left post in the 21st minute, while miscued chances for City's star buy Erling Haaland left Pep Guardiola with a frustrating first half on his hands.

The introduction of Argentina star Alvarez from the bench proved an inspired move by Spaniard Guardiola, with the former River Plate man flicking home after Phil Foden's saved effort to level matters.

But when Ruben Dias was flagged for a handball from Nunez's header with full-time fast approaching, Salah was able to put the Reds back on top with his low spot-kick.

Nunez's big moment in stoppage time confirmed the result, while Haaland hit the crossbar in the dying moments to sum up his tough day at the office.

Erling Haaland was named in Manchester City's starting line-up for the Community Shield clash with rivals Liverpool, who had Darwin Nunez on the bench.

Haaland joined City from Borussia Dortmund last month in what has been a busy transfer window for the Premier League champions.

The Norway striker scored his first goal for the club in a pre-season friendly win over Bayern Munich and Pep Guardiola has selected him to start in the traditional curtain-raiser for the English season, which is being played at Leicester City's King Power Stadium this year.

Haaland will play down the middle, flanked by Jack Grealish and former Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez.

Nathan Ake - linked with a move away from City in recent weeks - partners captain Ruben Dias at the back, with Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Rodri selected in midfield. Kalvin Phillips and Julian Alvarez, City's other new signings, had to settle for a place on the bench.

Nunez has been the big-money arrival at Liverpool this transfer window, but the former Benfica star was named among Jurgen Klopp's substitutes.

With goalkeeper Alisson injured, Adrian was handed a rare start for the FA Cup winners, who have Roberto Firmino leading an attacking three that also includes Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz.

Saturday's encounter marks just the second Community Shield game between City and Liverpool, with Guardiola's side winning on penalties in 2019.

It is the first time the Community Shield has been held away from Wembley since 2012, when City beat Chelsea 3-2 at Villa Park.

This weekend's Community Shield sees the new English domestic season begin as the last one ended, with Manchester City and Liverpool doing battle.

City pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title, but the Reds got the better of Pep Guardiola's men in their FA Cup semi-final, going on to beat Chelsea in the decider and book their place in Saturday's curtain-raiser.

These two are expected to lead the way once again in 2022-23, yet plenty has changed in their ranks since they were last in action – particularly in attack.

At the Etihad Stadium, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling have departed to be replaced by Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez.

With Haaland's arrival perhaps the most notable in the Premier League during this close-season, Liverpool responded with their own big-money big man up front; Darwin Nunez was signed from Benfica to be flanked by the returning Mohamed Salah, but Sadio Mane is gone.

After several years of success at the forefront of English football, Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp appear set to reshape their teams around their latest buys.

Both managers lined up last season primarily without a traditional number nine.

Jesus may return to that role after joining Arsenal, but City's sole centre-forward often played from the right in 2021-22, taking only 16.0 per cent of his Premier League touches in the penalty area.

Haaland, by contrast, took 20.7 per cent of his Bundesliga touches in the box for Borussia Dortmund last term, which explains how a staggering 96.3 per cent of his shots were taken from inside the area – by far a higher share than that of any forward who played for City or Liverpool.

That mark comfortably tops Nunez's (74.1 per cent of shots in the box), too, but the 23-year-old also brings something new to a Reds outfit who have often deployed a false nine through the middle.

Roberto Firmino was that man for a long time and took only 9.5 per cent of his touches in the area last season. Nunez took a mammoth 24.5 per cent of his Primeira Liga touches within 18 yards of goal.

Staying in such positions so regularly helped to boost the shot conversion rates of Haaland (27.5 per cent) and Nunez (30.6 per cent), although both still impressively outperformed their expected goals (xG) totals; Haaland scored 22 from an xG of 18.5, while Nunez netted 26 from an xG of 18.4.

In fact, the numbers suggest Divock Origi was the only player across the best two squads in the Premier League who performed in a manner akin to that which might now be expected of the superstar duo.

Origi, who has left Liverpool for Milan, took 21.7 per cent of his touches in the box, and his shoot-on-sight policy saw an attempt at goal for every 6.9 touches (9.3 for Haaland, 9.8 for Nunez).

Yet this perhaps spoke as much to Origi's role as Liverpool's specialist rescue act as anything else; he made only seven appearances, all from the bench for a combined 126 minutes, yet scored three goals, converting 30.0 per cent of his shots.

Over the course of his time under Klopp, when he was occasionally asked to play wide, Origi's statistics were more in line with those of his former team-mates. Only 13.3 per cent of his touches came in the box, just 68.9 per cent of his shots were from within the same range, and those attempts arrived every 16.4 touches on average.

Maybe Klopp will also ask Nunez to push wide and stretch the play, maintaining the fluid forward line that saw winger Mane increasingly used through the centre in big games.

That should not necessarily hamper Nunez's hopes of scoring regularly; Salah could afford to marginally underperform his xG (23.8) and still strike 23 times in the league last season, playing from the right but taking 19.6 per cent of his touches in the box and needing only 12.4 on average to attempt a shot.

Prior to last season, Guardiola had at least been able to incorporate at City the sort of penalty-box striker he has signed in Haaland.

Sergio Aguero averaged a shot every 10.0 touches under Pep, with 17.8 per cent of his touches across five seasons coming inside the area.

And Haaland brings more to his game, too, if only due to his sheer size. The 1.94-metre ex-Dortmund man won 57.6 per cent of his aerial duels in 2021-22 – no City or Liverpool forward won more than half, with Nunez also lagging on 40.6 per cent.

But perhaps the former Guardiola player whose profile most resembles Haaland's is Zlatan Ibrahimovic – and his Barcelona career was not Pep's biggest success story.

Just as City will have to adapt to Haaland – perhaps by allowing him to compete aerially from a few of their trademark cutback crosses – so will he to them. The forward completed just 71.3 per cent of his passes in the league last season; that lax level of link-up is unlikely to wash in a Guardiola side, as Jesus (84.8 per cent), Sterling (85.4 per cent) and Riyad Mahrez (90.0 per cent) will attest.

Nunez completed 67.1 per cent of his league passes, which would similarly rank him last among Liverpool forwards, but he should at least be familiar with the high-pressing approach enforced by Klopp.

Liverpool led the Premier League in high turnovers (443 or 11.7 per game), average starting position (45.5m upfield) and opposition passes per defensive action (9.9 PPDA), while Benfica (9.0 high turnovers per game, 44.4m starting position and 8.7 PPDA) unsurprisingly ranked in the Primeira Liga's top three in each category.

So, there is plenty to be excited about both in Manchester and in Liverpool and yet great scope for potential teething problems.

The forthcoming title tussle could well be decided by how successfully Haaland and Nunez fit into these ruthless, relentless winning machines, and Saturday provides an early opportunity to assess that process.

Erling Haaland is fit enough to play a part in Manchester City's Community Shield clash with Liverpool on Saturday, manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

The 22-year-old has played just 40 minutes of pre-season action since joining City from Borussia Dortmund earlier this transfer window.

Guardiola has been carefully managing Haaland's fitness due to the prolific striker carrying some minor niggles, but he is ready to use him against Liverpool this weekend.

"He's ready to play on Saturday, and the first impression as a guy is really good, a funny guy. He's settled really well with the team. That is important," Guardiola said.

"Apparently people think it's not one of the most important things, but it is... the good vibes in the locker room is more important than any advice or any other thing you can say.

"We try to settle good with the family, try to get to know each other in training, we can see what we want to do, what we did in previous seasons. The quality will do the rest."

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 appearances in all competitions for Dortmund – only Robert Lewandowski (122) and Kylian Mbappe (89) scored more times among players from Europe's top five leagues across that period.

 

The Norway international required just 12 minutes to get off the mark in his City debut with the winner against Bayern Munich last week, and Guardiola is happy with the former Salzburg striker's condition.

"He feels good. When I spoke with him over the last days, he feels a little bit [of niggles], but he can train and move. At the end of August, he will be better than now," Guardiola said.

"Now we have one game a week, with more training. After that, we start the crazy schedule – three days, four days.

"I think for Liverpool and ourselves I think we arrive at this competition a little early, but the opportunity to play the Community Shield is always too early. We have to adapt."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes Manchester City will have to get used to having Erling Haaland in the side, just as his team must adapt to Darwin Nunez.

The two best teams in England bolstered their fearsome attacks in the off-season, with City signing Haaland from Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool spending big on Nunez from Benfica.

Since making his debut for Dortmund in January 2020, only Robert Lewandowski (122) and Kylian Mbappe (89) have scored more goals among players from Europe's top five leagues than Haaland, who netted 86 goals in 89 appearances in all competitions for BVB.

Meanwhile, Nunez enjoyed a brilliant season in 2021-22, scoring 34 goals in all competitions, including six in the Champions League.

Both players impressively outperformed their expected goals (xG) totals in their respective league competitions, too; Haaland scored 22 from an xG of 18.5, while Nunez netted 26 from an xG of 18.4.

Haaland netted in City's pre-season win over Bayern Munich, as Nunez scored four in a 5-0 rout of RB Leipzig last week.

The duo are set to make their competitive debuts in Saturday's Community Shield clash between City and Liverpool, and ahead of that game, Klopp believes both teams – who have often played without a natural centre-forward – must adapt to their new strikers.

"I watched the Bayern [v City] game – they're not used to Erling's natural runs yet, like we're not used to Darwin's," Klopp told a news conference.

"They'll need some time for Erling, but that doesn't mean he can’t score. Most things look like last year, how they set up the press. No real changes."

Both City and Liverpool also have to adapt to losing some key performers. 

While not always regulars at City, Raheem Sterling, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus have proved crucial to Pep Guardiola's success, and Liverpool now have to find a way to play without Sadio Mane, who has left for Bayern Munich. Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino are also gone.

Yet Klopp is confident Nunez, along with fellow additions Fabio Carvalho and Calvin Ramsey, can help Liverpool develop.

"[We've] lost three first team players, Sadio, Divock and Taki, brought in three, and there's space for young players to step in as well," Klopp said.

"We're together for a while and know each other and what we expect from each other. We want to use the togetherness we have and the experiences we've had for the better."

Pep Guardiola is confident Erling Haaland and the rest of Manchester City's new signings will settle in swiftly, though he acknowledged the Premier League champions have lost some key players.

Club stalwart Fernandinho left when his contract expired at the end of last season, and City have sold three other players who played a role in Guardiola's success, with Raheem Sterling joining Chelsea while Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko departed for Arsenal.

City already have most of their replacements through the door. Julian Alvarez was signed in January and has now linked up with the squad, while a deal was struck with Borussia Dortmund for prolific striker Haaland in May.

Kalvin Phillips has been signed from Leeds United to bolster City's midfield and Stefan Ortega has joined as a back-up goalkeeper, facilitating a loan move to Middlesbrough for Zack Steffen.

City's new recruits could get their first taste of competitive action on Saturday, when Guardiola's side face FA Cup winners Liverpool in the Community Shield.

Though he has been impressed with how quickly the new arrivals have started their City careers, Guardiola emphasised how important the players who have moved on were to his squad.

He told a news conference: "If you analyse what happened in the last years, without these important players it would be difficult to imagine it. We wish all of them the best.

"New people arrived, they settled quickly, down to earth and very humble people. We are going to try, this is Manchester City, we are all of us, we try to be a competitive team, to win our first title. 

"It's an honour to compete again [for the Community Shield], we will try to do a good game against an opponent we know well, it will dictate a little bit how is our moment, our level. Two, three weeks of pre-season is too short, but I saw many good things in this period."

Asked if it would take time for his new players to adapt, Guardiola said: "Hopefully not, the quicker they settle the better. It's my feeling they will not take time.

"Stefan surprised us a lot, how good he is on the ball and with our build-up, Kalvin knows the Premier League perfectly. The way they've listened, behaved, the minutes they've played. I think they'll settle quickly."

Guardiola was pressed on whether this was a "reset" the squad required, but the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona boss stressed that was not necessarily the case.

"Sometimes the transfer market dictates what you want to do," he explained. "The first season when we arrived we tried to loan, sell players and could not. This year I do not know what happened.

"Sometimes you want to do things, but it depends not just how good or bad we are but on the situations, and these situations happened quicker than we expected.

"The three players who have been sold, if they stayed with us they would have been incredibly happy. I know them, they [would have] continued to do what they had done. These situations have happened, we make our replacements, and they are here.

"Normally when a project is six, seven years, you are not seven years with the same people. When I arrived there was just Kevin [De Bruyne]. We have gratitude for the guys that were here. All the players have made an incredible contribution, we can only be grateful."

City are interested in signing Brighton and Hove Albion left-back Marc Cucurella, who on Friday was said to have handed in a transfer request in an attempt to push through a move, with the Seagulls reportedly holding out for a £50million fee.

Guardiola refused to comment further, though he did note it was an area of the pitch City would like to strengthen if possible.

Aymeric Laporte, meanwhile, is likely to be out until at least September after having knee surgery, Guardiola confirmed.

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