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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Joe Bray

Pep Guardiola is getting almost everything he wanted from Man City stars during international break

What must Pep Guardiola have felt when he got the news that Erling Haaland was withdrawing from the Norway squad without kicking a ball?

Haaland couldn't shake off a groin issue from Manchester City's win over Burnley, it got worse, and tests confirmed he wouldn't be able to play for Norway against Spain and Scotland this week. His dad Alfie has since confirmed that Haaland has gone to City's partner hospital in Barcelona for further check-ups.

Guardiola's last message to his players was a simple one: don't get injured, and look after yourselves. It seems Haaland already was injured, but nonetheless it was the nightmare start to an international break for Guardiola. Since then, things have looked up.

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If Haaland's injury threatened to set the tone for the international fixtures from a City perspective, then so far it has actually been an outlier. Fringe players have got useful minutes, regulars have put in good performances, and everyone appears relatively happy.

Four of City's five England players featured in their win over Italy, including Kalvin Phillips getting a rare 90 minutes - only his second of the season. Phillips needs minutes wherever they come, so to get the nod in such a big game will do wonders for his confidence. In his last seven fixtures for club and country, he's played five times and amassed more minutes than the rest of the season combined, from a possible 27 games before that (plus a further 17 when he was injured).

All of Guardiola's centre-backs have started for their countries, including Aymeric Laporte, who has been finding starts for City hard to come by, especially in the more important games. Likewise, Riyad Mahrez has done little to lose his place recently, so a reminder of his good form with a goal for Algeria is a useful one from his perspective.

Guardiola wanted his players to come back as fit, if not fitter, than they were before, so the break could benefit those who aren't playing as much.

Sergio Gomez got a start for Spain under-21s, but at his more familiar left-wing role. It's hard to see him displacing Jack Grealish there for City, although any game-time is useful for a player who could be needed in the run-in.

Others, like Ederson and Kevin De Bruyne, have received welcome votes of confidence from their national teams. Ederson was picked ahead of Alisson, while De Bruyne has been named Belgium's permanent new captain. Julian Alvarez and his Argentina teammates got a spine-tingling welcome on their first game since winning the World Cup.

One of the only outfield players not picked for international duty was Ilkay Gundogan, as Germany look to rebuild and try some younger faces. For the City captain, spending some quality time at home after the birth of his new child, is far more important than football.

Haaland's injury is the only negative of a so-far productive week. As City look to begin preparations to face Liverpool on Saturday, Guardiola will be hoping for good news on Haaland and a continuation of how the break has gone so far.


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