City, second in the league, are back in action at Wolves today
Pep Guardiola has described Erling Haaland as the “perfect person” to manage but says the prolific Manchester City striker can get even better. Guardiola compared the Norwegian to Johan Cruyff in midweek after his superb late winner against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
The strike was Haaland’s 13th in just nine appearances since his £51mn ($58mn) move to the Etihad Stadium from Dortmund in the summer transfer window. “He’s an exceptional striker, I’ve said it many times,” City boss Guardiola told reporters yesterday.
“But at the age he is, and I think he has ambition, he wants to be better and I think he will be better. He’s a perfect person to manage. He’s a nice guy and this is the most important thing. The quality he has he had before he came here and he has continued to do what he has done. We didn’t add many things.”
City, second in the Premier League, are back in action at Wolves in the early kick-off today. The champions won 5-1 at Molineux, with four goals from Kevin De Bruyne, on their last visit in May but Guardiola expects a different encounter this time.
He feels Wolves are a much tougher proposition than their record of one win in six league games suggests. “It’s a completely different team to previous seasons. They played five at the back with (Conor) Coady, now they decide to play with four and I’m really impressed with the way they play,” Guardiola said.
“Their position in the table is because football is unpredictable and sometimes you don’t get what you deserve. They have a lot of good things in terms of central defenders making a good process and when they attack they have incredible runners, a lot of talent. We have to be mentally prepared, otherwise it will be difficult.
While City can rely on Haaland’s predatory instincts, Wolves have found it harder to score this far this term. Bruno Lage’s team have netted just three times in six league games, prompting the free transfer signing of Spanish striker Diego Costa this week.
But the 33-year-old, a two-time Premier League champion with Chelsea, has not played since leaving Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro in January and Lage admits he will need time to make an impact. “When Sasa (Kalajdzic) got injured Diego was available, so it was time to talk to him and convince him to come to us,” Lage said. “He is fit, there are no problems but he needs to be ready to compete at this level.”
Costa will help Wolves toughen up and win duels on the pitch thanks to the Spanish striker’s aggression and physicality, Lage said. Lage’s side have scored only three league goals this season – the lowest in the top flight – ahead of home game against champions City.
When asked if his side had been too nice in the past and whether Costa would change that, the Portuguese manager told reporters: “That’s a good point. If you want to press and be more aggressive, sometimes you cannot be too nice. “You need to be aggressive in the duels and he (Costa) said that to me. ‘I know you ask about my profile, my personality, I am one of the best guys outside the pitch but inside the pitch I am very hard’. That is the kind of man I want also. It was a simple talk and it was very easy to convince him to join us.”
Costa has not played since leaving Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro in January, however, and the 33-year-old admitted he would need “two to three weeks to get back in shape”.
“We are very happy with him. We know he needs time not to be fit, because he is fit, but to be ready to compete at this level. It is his destiny (to return to the Premier League),” Lage added. “Fifteen months ago when I think about him we didn’t have any chance (of signing him), now he said to me what happened is because it is meant to be. We need a reference in the box, we need one guy to compete with Raul and Diego has that profile, and he has a different profile to Raul.”
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Today: Wolves v Manchester City (1130), Newcastle v Bournemouth (1400),
Tottenham v Leicester (1630)
Tomorrow: Brentford v Arsenal (1100), Everton v West Ham (1315)