LONDON (AP) — Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was unsure Tuesday whether Erling Haaland will be available for the huge Premier League game against Arsenal.
The striker was substituted at halftime in City’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa on Sunday with what Guardiola at the time described as a “knock.”
Haaland took part in a recovery session on Monday, but Guardiola could not say if the league’s top scorer, with 25 goals, would be healthy enough to play at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday in a match between the top two.
“Right now, I don’t know,” Guardiola said.
The teams are separated by three points and City could go into first place on goal difference with a win, although Arsenal has a game in hand.
While saying it was an “important” game, Guardiola attempted to play down its significance with City, the defending champion, still having 15 more games to play.
“I have the feeling many things are still to happen,” Guardiola said. “The FA Cup and Champions League is a knockout and we’ll try to arrive for the last 8-10 games in the Premier League being there. This is the target.
“I would say tomorrow would help us to be there in those 8-10 games.”
City beat Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup last month, though that match was at Etihad Stadium and the visitors fielded a slightly weakened lineup.
Guardiola believes this is the strongest Arsenal team he has faced since joining City in 2016.
“So far it’s the best team in the Premier League — they’ve made an incredible first (half) of the league,” he said.
“We felt it a few weeks ago when we played the FA Cup here how committed and sharp (Arsenal was). … It will be a big battle in all departments.”
Before taking any questions at his pre-match news conference, Guardiola issued an apology to Steven Gerrard for what the City manager described as his “unnecessary and stupid” comments about the Liverpool great last week.
While launching a defiant defence of City following accusations by the Premier League that the club breached a slew of financial regulations from 2009-18, Guardiola brought up Gerrard’s infamous slip during Liverpool’s 2-0 loss to Chelsea in one of the final games of the 2013-14 season.
That loss for Liverpool helped City win the league that season.
“I don’t know if we are responsible for Steven Gerrard slipping,” Guardiola said on Friday. “You know that situation at Anfield? I didn’t want it out of respect for Steven Gerrard, but it’s our fault?”
On Tuesday, Guardiola said he admired Gerrard and was “ashamed” of himself.
“He doesn’t deserve it,” he said. “I didn’t represent my club well, putting his name in these stupid comments.”