Pep Guardiola has revealed the games are starting to take their toll on Erling Haaland and some of his other team-mates, which is why the Manchester City boss made the decision to keep his star striker on the bench in the 0-0 Champions League draw with FC Copenhagen. The Norwegian hotshot, who has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water after rifling home 15 goals in his opening nine matches, has been a mainstay in Guardiola’s XI since arriving at the Etihad Stadium but the 22-year-old was kept on the bench in Denmark to preserve his fitness levels.
City are still very much on course to top Group G despite dropping their first points of their Champions League campaign after playing for over an hour with 10 men following defender Sergio Gomez’s red card.
Guardiola was not prepared to risk Haaland ahead of Sunday’s Premier League trip to Liverpool as Julian Alvarez was given a rare chance to shine in attack.
The Spaniard has since declared that his talismanic frontman needed a chance to recharge his batteries because he was “so, so tired” following the 4-0 win over Southampton.
“He finished the game against Southampton so, so tired and he didn’t recover well these last few days,” Guardiola said.
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Unfortunately for City, Haaland is not the only player feeling the effects of playing three matches a week ahead of November’s World Cup in Qatar.
“Many players didn’t start today because they were exhausted and tired and fatigued and niggles,” Guardiola added.
“Erling didn’t feel really good after the game against Southampton, Phil [Foden] had some disturbing problems, Bernardo [Silva] told us yesterday he was so tired.”
City thought they were ahead in Denmark when Rodri blasted home a thunderous strike from range. VAR soon ruled the wonder goal out though after Riyad Mahrez handled in the build-up to the goal.
It was turning into a night to forget for Algerian international Mahrez when his penalty was later saved by former Liverpool goalkeeper Kamil Grabara.
Then, to make matters worse, the former Leicester City winger was subbed by Guardiola after left-back Gomez was shown a straight red card for a professional foul just 30 minutes into the contest.
Guardiola’s side now head straight back to Manchester and his players will be given Wednesday off before preparations for Sunday’s trip to Merseyside begin on Thursday.
Manchester City will qualify for the knockout stages should Borussia Dortmund avoid defeat to Sevilla at Signal Iduna Park in the other match in Group G.