Thursday, December 8 2022

Pep Guardiola said on Tuesday that Erling Haaland will become even more prolific once he gets used to life at Manchester City as the in-form striker prepares for a reunion with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League this week.

Haaland will face his former club on Wednesday for the first time since joining City in a £51 million ($58 million) transfer in the close-season.

That fee already looks a bargain after a blistering start featuring 12 goals from Haaland in just eight appearances for the Premier League champions.

After scoring twice in last week’s rout of Sevilla, the Norwegian has netted 25 times in only 20 Champions League games and he will be looking to add to that remarkable tally when Dortmund arrive at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola is delighted by Haaland’s hot streak, but he warned the rest of Europe that his young star is not at the peak of his powers yet.

“He’s young, hungry, it’s going to happen, he can improve,” Guardiola told reporters.

“He’s 22 and can be better. The connection with his mates, over time, will improve and he will be an even better player.”

Haaland is one of several former Dortmund players in Guardiola’s squad, with fellow summer signings Sergio Gomez and Manuel Akanji also in contention to feature against their old team.

Guardiola admits Dortmund will look to exploit their knowledge of Haaland, Akanji and Gomez, but he is confident they can handle the reunion pressure.

“They know these players better than I know Dortmund players, that’s for sure,” Guardiola said.

“They can get that benefit but we’ll see if it’s an advantage or disadvantage, but these three know the qualities of the Dortmund players too.”

City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, another former Dortmund player, has been impressed by Haaland’s attitude as much as his predatory finishing.

“The numbers speak for themselves. “He’s doing great on the pitch but his character, attitude and determination off the pitch is something incredible,” he said.

City are hoping Haaland can prove the final piece of the jigsaw after years of near misses in the Champions League.

“We will see. It will be a very tough competition and little details can decide the outcome,” Gundogan said.

Meanwhile, Guardiola insists City’s bid to win the Champions League and retain the Premier League title will not be affected by a looming fixture pile-up later this season.

City’s Premier League match against Tottenham last weekend was postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

There is also a possibility their trip to Arsenal on October 19 will be moved if the Gunners reschedule their postponed Europa League tie against PSV Eindhoven for that midweek.

With the World Cup set to halt the season for six weeks from mid-November, City face a backlog in the second half of the campaign.

“We will find a way. Always the fixtures were so tight every season. The Premier League has the ability to find room for the fixtures,” Guardiola said.

smg/kca/iwd

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