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Managers coy over fitness of Haaland, Rashford and Saliba

31 Mar 2023

Guardiola, Arteta and Ten Hag all gave updates over the fitness of their star players

The top three teams in the Premier League will resume action at the weekend with question marks against the fitness of key players at each club, and all three managers were coy with their updates in their Friday press conferences. 

Late session key to Haaland fitness

Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola said that Erling Haaland still might have a chance to feature in the first match of the weekend, at home to Liverpool.

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The league’s leading scorer with 28 goals this season withdrew from the Norway squad last week as a result of a groin strain picked up in FA Cup action two weekends ago.

His absence would be a big blow to Man City, who are eight points behind leaders Arsenal, with 11 matches for them to play. 

“Erling is recovering,” said Guardiola in his pre-match press conference. “This afternoon is the last training session then we'll see how he feels.

“We will see today. Again, the doctors and especially the player will decide how does he feel.

“Yesterday I spoke with him and he feels good. But we will see.

“Life is risk in these stages. You have to take it. We score a lot of goals this season. He scored an incredible amount of goals. But in the past always we scored a lot of goals.”

See: How lethal Alvarez can shine with or without Haaland

In the Premier League matches where Haaland has not started, the defending champions laboured to a 1-0 win at Leicester City, and were drawing 1-1 at home to Fulham before the Norwegian came off the bench to score the winner from the penalty spot.

Guardiola did confirm the absence of midfielder Phil Foden, who has had an appendectomy and will be out for 2-3 weeks, according to the Man City doctors.

“Phil had surgery,” Pep added. “The doctors tell me two or three weeks. So we will see how his development after appendix surgery.”

The title race

Pos Team Pl GD Pts
1 MCI 38 +61 89
2 ARS 38 +45 84
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Saliba absent

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta confirmed that William Saliba will miss Saturday’s home match against Leeds United with a back issue the central defender picked up against Sporting Lisbon in the UEFA Europa League a fortnight ago.

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As to how long Saliba will be absent, Arteta was more coy, saying only that he was “hopeful” the Frenchman would return before the end of the season. 

“Unfortunately, he’s not going to be fit for this game [against Leeds] but we are trying, he is trying to do everything he can to feel better and get back training, but not yet.

“Yeah, I’m very hopeful and he is as well,” Arteta added when asked if he will play again this season.

“Back injuries are a bit tricky, how they evolve with the load in certain areas but he’s very positive about it, the medical staff are positive about it, so let’s push it every day a little bit and see how he copes with that and how the pain develops. He’s so willing to be back with the team.”

See: Premier League preview Matchweek 29 - what to look out for

Saliba has been a key part of the third-best defence in the league this season, conceding 26 goals, so his absence would be a blow, even if Rob Holding deputised ably in the 4-1 win over Crystal Palace in Arsenal’s previous league match.

The match with Palace was Holding’s sole start in the Premier League this season and tougher opponents than out-of-form Eagles lie in wait for Arsenal, including trips to Liverpool, Man City and Newcastle United.

Hope for Jesus and Partey

Arteta was more positive about forward Gabriel Jesus, who he said was close to 100 per cent fitness after a knee injury suffered during the FIFA 2022 World Cup. Jesus has yet to start in the league since coming back, but Arteta feels that the international break has allowed the Brazilian to make important progress. 

“He's very close to that [100 per cent fitness],” the Spaniard added.

“In the last 10 days he's made a big step forward. You can see he's looser and not thinking about it. He's creating that chaos in training. He's in a really good place now.” 

Thomas Partey is also set to feature against Leeds.

The Ghanian midfielder was accompanied by an Arsenal physio during international duty, and though he missed their second match in Africa Cup of Nations qualification, Arteta said he is "hopeful” that he'll play on Saturday.

“We have a really good relationship with the Ghanaian federation and we have to manage and look after our players.

“They have been really positive about it as well. We try to help as much as possible. I think it works both ways. Obviously he wasn’t fit enough to play the second game [for Ghana], but hopefully he is going to be back for the weekend.” 

Ten Hag positive over Rashford

Marcus Rashford was another player to withdraw from international duty last week but his manager Erik Ten Hag, seemed more confident, especially as Manchester United have another 24 hours before they face Newcastle in a match where both teams are vying for a top-four finish.

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“I have good hope,” said Ten Hag.

“He trained but he had to do some treatment, he had to do some individual training and, today, he joined in the group.

“I think we have one more day so I have good hope he's available. I think so.” 

Man Utd are already without Casemiro as he serves the second of a four-match suspension. There are doubts also over defender Raphael Varane and midfielder Marcel Sabitzer.

Race for top four

Pos Team Pl GD Pts
3 MUN 38 +15 75
4 NEW 38 +35 71
5 LIV 38 +28 67
6 BHA 38 +19 62
7 AVL 38 +5 61
View More


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