Pep Guardiola expects Erling Haaland back in training on Thursday

By Sports Desk December 12, 2023

Erling Haaland will miss Manchester City’s final Champions League group game at Red Star Belgrade but is set to return to training on Thursday, manager Pep Guardiola has said.

The prolific Norwegian missed the Premier League win at Luton on Sunday with a foot problem and has not travelled to Serbia for Wednesday’s European dead rubber.

It remains unclear if the 23-year-old will be fit for the visit of Crystal Palace on Saturday but Guardiola has suggested the player could soon be back in action.

The City boss told reporters at a press conference: “He will be back on Thursday, I think. We will see how he feels.

“I don’t know right now (when he will be back) but the next press conference I could be more precise.”

City are also without Jeremy Doku in Belgrade because of a muscular problem while Kevin De Bruyne, who has been out since August, is not yet ready to rejoin the squad.

Goalkeeper Ederson is also sitting out that game, handing an opportunity to deputy Stefan Ortega.

There is nothing riding on the game at the Rajko Mitic Stadium with holders City having already won Group G and Red Star, who lost 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium in September, condemned to last place.

Consequently, Guardiola intends to make some changes as he looks ahead to the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia next week, although he insists he will continue to demand the highest standards.

“We approach the game like we did the first game in Manchester, the same way,” he said. “The players have to perform. We’ve prepared really well. I hope we can do a good game.

“But of course we are going to rotate some players because after we have three days, travel, semi-final, potential final.

“Tomorrow I’ll be very pleased to see many players who didn’t play lately involved.”

One of those players to feature will be Ortega, who joined Guardiola for pre-match media duties.

The German said: “I’m happy for every game I get here and tomorrow could be the next chance for me to show my best version.”

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