Daily Express

Pep positive as Haaland nears return


- By David McDonnell

ERLING HAALAND is set to return to training at Manchester City tomorrow, according to Pep Guardiola.

The star striker missed Sunday’s 2-1 win at Luton with a stress fracture of the foot, sparking concerns he could be set for an extended spell on the sidelines.

But Guardiola, ahead of City’s final Champions League group game against Red Star Belgrade tonight, said he expects Haaland – who has 19 goals this season – to resume training tomorrow.

Asked if Haaland, below, had trained since missing the Luton game, the City manager replied: “No. He’ll be back, I think, on Thursday. We’ll see how he feels.”

City host Crystal Palace on Saturday but manager Guardiola was uncertain if Haaland would be involved in their last match before heading off to the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia.

He said: “I don’t know right now. Next press conference I could be more precise about his condition.”

City have been without captain and influentia­l midfielder Kevin De Bruyne since opening their Premier League campaign with a 3-0 win at Burnley in August.

Despite De Bruyne’s huge influence, Guardiola refused to put City’s patchy domestic form this season solely down to the prolonged absence of the 32-year-old Belgian.

He said: “Of course I’d prefer if Kevin was with us. Of course we need him but you have to handle the situation with the players we have.

“Of course the word isn’t miss something but change something and you need time to adapt.

“I have the feeling so far is good, we don’t drop too much.

“But we have standards. We lost one game in six or seven so it’s a big disaster.

“The others we draw but perform really well.” With City already confirmed as Group G winners, Guardiola is expected to rotate his squad for tonight’s dead rubber, with RB Leipzig also through as runners-up.

Stefan Ortega will come in for Ederson in goal, for his fourth appearance of the season.

Ortega said: “I’m happy for every game I get here. Tomorrow could be the next chance to show my best version. “First of all, you have to be a good shot-stopper. This is our main target.

“Of course you have to be good with your feet and to play here you need the full package of a keeper.”

 ?? ?? MAKE THE GRADE: City players train for Red Star
MAKE THE GRADE: City players train for Red Star

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