Manchester City responded to a tough period on and off the field by storming into a 3-0 halftime lead during Sunday’s Premier League match against Aston Villa.
Pep Guardiola’s side slipped once again in their title defence as they slumped to a lacklustre 1-0 defeat at Tottenham last weekend.
On Monday, the Premier League charged the eight-time English champions with 115 breaches of its competition rules, with the majority of the allegations relating to accusations of false accounting that formed the basis of UEFA’s case against City in 2018.
Guardiola was in a defiant mood when he faced the media for his pre-match news conference and the City players took their cues from their manager and a raucous Etihad Stadium.
Rodri headed them into an early lead before Ilkay Gundogan — the final-day hero in this fixture last season — doubled the advantage and Riyad Mahrez’s made it 3-0 from the spot after Jack Grealish won a penalty against his former club.
But those exploits came at a cost as star striker Erling Haaland was forced to leave the action at halftime.
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What is Erling Haaland’s injury?
Haaland was replaced by Argentina World Cup winner Julian Alvarez at the break on account of a presumed thigh injury.
He took a blow to his upper left leg in a challenge with Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez during a passage of play that saw Gundogan thump the ball into the net.
The goal was disallowed, with Haaland penalised for a foul on Matinez, even though it now looks like he came out of the collision worse.
The 22-year-old was able to play on and even produced an excellent assist for Gundogan’s goal.
“We know that Erling scored a lot of goals so far but today in the first half he made the runs that we need, he went into the areas where he can create space for the other players coming in from the back,” Gundogan told Sky Sports.
“He played well. Hopefully he’s not too injured because, obviously, we need him.”
Eyebrows were raised when Mahrez stepped forward ahead of Haaland to covert City’s penalty in first-half stoppage time but it soon became apparent that his injury might have been a factor.
HALF-TIME | In the lead! 🙌
🔵 3-0 ⚫️ #ManCity | @NESCAFE pic.twitter.com/gW5jW7d4Ys
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 12, 2023
However, after the game, Rodri revealed to Sky Sports that Guardiola had designated Mahrez as his chosen taker despite Haaland netting four out of four from 12 yards for City.
“It was clear, the captain [Gundogan] decided and I have to accept the decision,” said the Spain midfielder, who also asked Gundogan if he could take the spot kick. “Riyad is the normal shooter but I asked because I felt confident in that moment.
“I understand that what we spoke before the game has to be. It depends on the coach, who decides before the game. It was Riyad. We have good shooters, even though we haven’t been very lucky in the last seasons with the penalties.”
What Man City games will Erling Haaland miss?
Speaking to Sky Sports, Guardiola said the initial prognosis on Haaland was unclear.
“I don’t know. He has a big knock,” he said. “He was uncomfortable. At 3-0, we did not want to take a risk. We will assess in the next days.”
The fact it appeared to be an impact injury, as opposed to a muscular strain, means a quick return is certainly possible.
Any absence at all would be keenly felt, however, with City due to travel to Arsenal on Wednesday for a crunch showdown in the Premier League title race.
“If he’s not ready, we’ll play another one,” Guardiola added. “Hopefully he is ready like everyone. We will see in the next days.”
Guardiola’s side moved to within three points of Mikel Arteta’s table toppers as they closed out a 3-1 win after Ollie Watkins pulled a goal back after the hour
At his post-match news conference, the City manager was cautiously optimistic over Haaland’s prospects.
“At halftime I spoke with the doctors and [they] said, ‘Maybe with 3-0 don’t take a risk’. I was alright, I agreed with the doctors. With the result more tight, maybe I wouldn’t do it,” he said.
“I think he’s not injured but tomorrow we will see. Hopefully he can be in on Wednesday. If he is not ready or there is some risk he is not going to play.”
How many goals has Erling Haaland scored this season?
Despite ongoing disputes over the merits of City’s overall play after two seasons operating largely without a conventional striker, there can be no debate over Haaland’s phenomenal impact on the Premier League.
He has scored 25 goals in 21 appearances to lead the way in the Golden Boot stakes in England’s top flight.
That haul includes a remarkable four hat-tricks, with the most recent coming in City’s 3-0 win over Wolves at the end of last month.
In the Champions League, Haaland has five in four games for City, who travel to RB Leipzig in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie later this month.
A goal in a 3-2 Carabao Cup win over Liverpool means Haaland has 31 goals in 28 games overall across all competitions.
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What is Man City’s record without Erling Haaland?
City won the only Premier League game Haaland has missed this season, but needed a stunning free-kick from Kevin De Bruyne to prevail 1-0 at Leicester City.
That absence was due to foot injury and he made his only Premier League substitute appearance so far in the next match, scoring a late penalty to down Fulham 2-1 despite Joao Cancelo being sent off.
He was an unused substitute during respective 2-0 and 4-0 wins over Chelsea in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, as was the case in a 0-0 Champions League draw at Copenhagen.
Haaland also rested up for a 3-1 dead rubber win over Sevilla in Europe.
Of the five City games he has played no part in this season, Haaland’s understudy Alvarez has scored in three of them.