Pep Guardiola, the City boss, has confirmed that striker Erling Haaland will be sidelined until the end of January.
Unfortunately, both John Stones and Manuel Akanji are also unavailable for Newcastle at St James’ Park in the Premier League this Saturday night.
However, there is positive news for the Premier League champions as Kevin De Bruyne is fit to start against Newcastle.
Haaland has been out of action since sustaining a foot injury at the beginning of December, causing him to miss the club’s last eight games in all competitions.
Despite scoring 52 goals in the previous season and already netting 19 this term, the 23-year-old’s return has been delayed due to the persistent nature of the injury.
The club had initially hoped for an early return in the new year, but Haaland is not yet back in full training. As a result, it is anticipated that Haaland will resume training during the club’s warm-weather training camp in Abu Dhabi, scheduled after the Newcastle game, as City has no match the following weekend.
Guardiola expressed this expectation, providing insight into Haaland’s recovery process. “Yes, (he’s had) a little bit of disturbing problems in his feet. It’s fine but the doctors decided to stop for one week and maybe restart in Abu Dhabi.”
“Hopefully at the end of this month, he’ll be ready. It was a little bit more than we expected in the beginning.”
“It’s the bone. It needs time. With every injury, you can do whatever you want but it’s a question of time.”
“We miss Erling a lot,” the Spaniard said. “We need him. Hopefully, he can come back and play the last four or five months without a problem.”
“When you are injured at end of November, you miss a lot of games. It’s the toughest period.”
City’s defensive lineup faces another setback as defender Manuel Akanji is set for a spell on the sidelines.
The Switzerland international had to leave the field early during last weekend’s FA Cup triumph over Huddersfield due to a robust challenge, adding to the woes of City’s defensive options.
Akanji now joins fellow center-back John Stones on the injury list.
Pep Guardiola provided an update on Akanji’s status, stating, “He will be out for some weeks. It’s not a major issue, but he’ll be unavailable until the end of the month.”
“Fortunately, we have a break of 10 days without games after the Newcastle match. We’ll assess their conditions during our time in Abu Dhabi and the favorable weather there.”
Despite defensive concerns, there is positive news for City, as Guardiola confirmed the return of key midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.
The 32-year-old Belgian, who struggled with a long-term hamstring injury, is now in contention to start against Newcastle.
De Bruyne initially suffered the injury during the first half of last season’s Champions League final against Inter Milan and aggravated it in City’s Premier League opener against Burnley in August, leading to surgery after just 23 minutes of play.
De Bruyne made a highly anticipated comeback as a second-half substitute in City’s 2-0 victory over Sheffield United on December 30.
He also featured off the bench in the club’s FA Cup third-round win over Huddersfield Town in their most recent outing.
Guardiola’s confirmation of De Bruyne’s availability is a welcome boost for City as they prepare for the upcoming fixture against Newcastle.
“Yes [he may start at Newcastle],” confirmed Guardiola on Friday.”
“From what I saw yesterday [Thursday] I feel good about it. He got some good minutes in training.”
“He is getting better now, he will have a few days off after this game and can train in Abu Dhabi to be good for the next few months.”
City is set to face Newcastle, aiming to narrow the gap with league leaders Liverpool at the summit. A victory in this fixture would bring the champions within two points of Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Pep Guardiola is optimistic that his team has successfully overcome a previous setback when they encountered a string of three drawn league matches at the end of November and early December.
The Catalan manager is now confident that City has the potential to secure a historic fourth consecutive top-flight title this season.
Guardiola expressed his belief in City’s title retention prospects, stating, “Right now, yes [City can retain their title]. With 18 or 19 games left, we are only five points behind. Statistically, it is possible.”
Guardiola’s confidence reflects the team’s determination to bounce back and compete for the league title despite the challenges faced earlier in the season.
“We want to make a legacy and dynasty. Is it realistic? At the moment, it’s far away so I don’t know.”
“We haven’t had time mentally to recover from winning the Treble. I think the Club World Cup gave us an opportunity to find a spark.”
“We’ve won two titles already this season. Right now, Liverpool are playing unbelievable, they are back having their best moment in many years.”