Jesse Marsch jokingly declared his former Salzburg striker Erling Haaland has been given permission to miss Manchester City’s Premier League trip to Leeds United with a “small hamstring injury.”
Haaland has scored an incredible 18 goals in 13 Premier League appearances and will face his hometown club for the first time on Wednesday.
Having missed the World Cup following Norway’s failure to qualify, Haaland is expected to be in peak condition, which worries his former Salzburg coach Marsch.
Recalling an interaction he had with Haaland shortly after his move to City, Marsch said: “He texted me as soon as the schedule came out.
“He said he’s most excited for this, and I gave him permission to have a small hamstring injury for that match!
“He was born in Leeds, his father has history here, and he has the club in his heart because of that.
“We have talked about it. When I got the job, he and his father were supportive. We’ll expect him to be fully ready, and that causes issues for us.”
However, there is unlikely to be a Leeds reunion for Kalvin Phillips after City boss Pep Guardiola said the midfielder had returned from England’s World Cup campaign in poor condition.
Phillips was left out as City made a winning return to action against Liverpool in the EFL Cup on Thursday, though Guardiola will not give up on him.
“He’s not injured. He arrived overweight. I don’t know why,” Guardiola said when asked about Phillips’ omission.
“He didn’t arrive in the condition to do training sessions and to play. When he will be ready, he will play, because we need him, we need him a lot.”
City are five points adrift of surprise Premier League leaders Arsenal, having signed off for the World Cup break with a surprise defeat against Brentford.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Leeds United – Patrick Bamford
Leeds striker Bamford has the highest expected goals total of any player yet to score in the Premier League so far this season (4.1). Will the 29-year-old’s luck turn against the champions?
Manchester City – Phil Foden
Foden has been involved in seven goals in his last five Premier League starts, scoring six and assisting one. However, just one of his 10 goal involvements overall this season has come away from home (a goal v Wolves at Molineux).
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Having remained unbeaten against Manchester City in their first season back in the Premier League in 2020-21 (W1 D1), Leeds lost both meetings with the Citizens last term by an aggregate score of 11-0.
– Leeds lost their final home league game of 2021, going down 4-1 against Arsenal. They haven’t lost their last game at Elland Road in consecutive calendar years since 2000 and 2001 (against Aston Villa and Newcastle United).
– Having lost against Brentford in their last Premier League game before the World Cup break, Manchester City are looking to avoid losing consecutive league games for the first time since December 2018.
– Manchester City have scored more goals than any other Premier League side this season (40), while with 14 goals conceded, their games have also seen more goals than any other sides’ (54). Meanwhile, Leeds’ last four Premier League games have produced a total of 22 goals, at an average of 5.5 per game.
– Both Rodrigo and Crysencio Summerville have scored in each of Leeds’ last four Premier League games, the first pair of players to ever score in four consecutive games for a club in the competition. Just three different players have scored in five in a row for the Whites in the Premier League – Rod Wallace (December 1993), Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (December 1998) and Mark Viduka twice (April 2003, August 2003).