Manchester City’s players returned fit from the international break and now face one of their “toughest tests” in the Premier League this season with the visit of Brighton and Hove Albion this weekend, manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday.
The treble winners had 17 players away with their countries but Guardiola said on Friday that “everyone is fit except Kevin” De Bruyne, who is recovering from a hamstring surgery.
City will look to right the ship after back-to-back league losses before the break left third in the standings. A defeat on Saturday would be only the second time Guardiola will have lost three games in a row in his managerial career.
The Spaniard had high praise for Brighton’s Italian manager Roberto De Zerbi, who is tipped by many as Guardiola’s eventual replacement at City. De Zerbi’s side are two points shy of City in sixth and can leapfrog them with a victory.
“I admire (De Zerbi) for the fact that it doesn’t matter for the team he plays,” Guardiola said. “He’s proving you don’t need to be at top clubs where you can get the team to play the way you want.
“He is converting Brighton into a top club. I enjoy watching Roberto De Zerbi’s teams play. Brighton will be one of the toughest test we will have this season.”
Guardiola’s only three consecutive league losses were in 2015 with Bayern Munich.
The Spaniard also told reporters City’s striker Erling Haaland should win the 2023 Ballon d’Or. The Norwegian, one of 30 candidates for the award, scored 52 goals in 53 games to help City capture the treble last season.
“So, Haaland should win, yes,” Guardiola said. “We won the treble and he scored 50 million goals.”
Haaland’s biggest challenge will come from seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi, who led Argentina to victory at the 2022 World Cup.
“The Ballon d’Or has to be two sections. One for Messi, and (a second category) for the others,” Guardiola said. “The worst, the worst, the worst season of Messi is the best for the rest.
“Both (Messi and Haaland) deserve it.”
City’s 23-year-old scoring machine Haaland has netted eight goals in 12 games this season.
- India vs England Live Score Updates, 4th Test Day 3: IND 38/0; Rohit, Jaiswal attack in chase of 192
- IND vs ENG, 4th Test: Rohit Sharma completes 4000 runs in Tests
- Ranji Trophy Live Score 2024 Quarterfinals Day 3 Updates: Saurashtra loses 7 vs TN; Baroda concedes lead to Mumbai
- Yathiraj, Pramod and Krishna win gold medals at Para Badminton World Championships
- Fighting knock from fighter’s son: Dhruv Jurel walks in footsteps of father, a Kargil War veteran