Pep Guardiola admits Erling Haaland’s special qualities can help Manchester City win the Champions League for the first time but insists the Norwegian cannot do it alone.
Haaland has hit the ground running since moving from Borussia Dortmund to City for £51m this summer, scoring a record 10 goals in his first six Premier League appearances.
The 22-year-old’s formidable record of 23 goals in 19 Champions League appearances has fueled suggestions that he could be the missing piece in City’s quest for European supremacy, but Guardiola is adamant the expectation has to be shouldered by his entire squad.
“All the players the club decided to sign this season came in to try to make us better otherwise it wouldn’t make sense,” Guardiola told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s Group G opener at Sevilla.
“Is that help going to help us win the title? I don’t know. I always have belief, but if we rely only on Erling’s shoulders, we are not going to win the Champions League. What we have to do is play well , create chances to help him score goals and hopefully we can do it.
“He came here because we convinced him, because he felt we didn’t have many strikers and he could play with us and try to be involved in the way we are playing.
“I understand completely that everyone talks about Erling but I have three, four, five new players and I consider it the same to settle as quickly as possible.
“Hopefully he can help us but we’re not going to win just for Erling, this is my feeling. He has a special quality and in the important games maybe he can solve the problems we have, definitely, but if we don’t play well we’re not going to win games in the Champions League or Premier League.”
Stones, Walker out; Akanji in line for debut in Seville
Guardiola confirmed defenders John Stones and Kyle Walker will both miss Tuesday’s trip to Sevilla through injury.
Right-back Walker was forced off in the latter stages of Saturday’s Premier League draw at Aston Villa while Stones has also picked up a knock, and neither player was included in City’s traveling squad for the clash at the Roman Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
“[They are] injured,” Guardiola confirmed. “John is not much. Kyle is not much too, but I don’t know if he will be ready for Saturday, or [Borussia] Dortmund or Wolves before the international break.”
Deadline Day signing Manuel Akanji comes in for his Manchester City debut in Stones and Walker’s absence, with Guardiola adding: “That is why we are lucky the club gave us Akanji, otherwise we would be in trouble.
“We knew it, we felt it, that is why the club moved quickly and we could bring in a player in this position.”
Midfielder Kalvin Phillips has traveled to Spain after a spell out with a shoulder injury and could feature.
Who’s under the most pressure to lift the Champions League trophy?
Holders Real Madrid will launch their Champions League defense in Glasgow when this season’s group stage gets under way on Tuesday evening.
Madrid’s 14th European Cup brought into ever sharper focus the ongoing wait for glory at Manchester City, who are competing in the Champions League for a 12th season – all coming in a row since 2011/12.
Only Real (26), Barcelona (19) and Bayern Munich (15) are on longer ongoing runs of consecutive appearances in the competition, and they should find negotiating Group G easier than it appears on the surface – not least because they have directly weakened one of their opponents.
Do Guardiola’s side need to win Europe’s most coveted club trophy more than anyone else?
How many goals could Haaland score?
Erling Haaland would finish the season on 70 Premier League goals if his strike-rate was maintained and he played every minute – but how is the Norwegian achieving his record-breaking returns?
Haaland has smashed home 10 goals from just six Premier League games, and has also been hooked off early in all but one of those to miss 55 minutes – netting back-to-back hat-tricks during wins over Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest at the Etihad.
Those numbers produce a staggering ratio of 1.86 goals per game – more potent than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues this season to have played in excess of 108 minutes.