After Manchester City drew Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League quarter-finals, Pep Guardiola said Erling Haaland is "one of the best strikers in the world right now"; the 20-year-old has scored 31 goals in 30 games this season, including 10 in Europe
Friday 19 March 2021 23:40, UK
Pep Guardiola said everybody is aware of Erling Haaland's quality as the Manchester City boss looks towards the international break for his opportunity to study Champions League quarter-final opponents Borussia Dortmund.
After beating Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0 on aggregate in the last 16, City were pitted against another Bundesliga side in Friday's draw.
There is also the potential for City to face Guardiola's former side Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, with the holders facing Paris Saint-Germain in the last eight - a repeat of last year's final.
But first, City must overcome a Dortmund side featuring not only former player Jadon Sancho but also 20-year-old striker Haaland, who has been linked with a host of major European clubs and has scored 31 goals in 30 games this season.
"The numbers speak for itself," said Guardiola, with Haaland's 10 goals already in the Champions League, including four in the last-16 5-4 aggregate victory over Sevilla, coming at a rate of one goal every 53 minutes.
"Of course he is one of the best strikers in the world right now, at his age. I saw a few games, honestly I didn't have much time but I saw the highlights, and the numbers in the Champions League and the league is impressive. I know the quality of this player. Everybody knows."
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When asked whether Haaland could be a City striker in the future, Guardiola replied: "He's a player from Borussia Dortmund. I don't like it when people talk about our players. You understand I cannot answer this question."
City have exited the Champions League at the quarter-final stage in the past three seasons, and while the trophy has so far eluded the club, this season it could be the final of four trophies they win under Guardiola.
On the prospect of facing Dortmund in the Champions League, Guardiola added: "It's a privilege to be in the last eight.
"I didn't see much [of Dortmund] this season because we don't have time in England to watch other competitions, but in this international break, we'll have time to see them. Dortmund are always a really good team."
"In two weeks I can answer better. I know (Mats) Hummels, (Raphael) Guerreiro, Emre Can with experience. (Axel) Witsel, Jadon Sancho and (Giovanni) Reyna. There are many, many young players with quality.
"In the last years, they decided to invest in young players, paying good wages and good salaries for agents. They have a lot of quality there. They were able to go through against Sevilla, one of the strongest teams ever winning three Europa Leagues in a row and again last season.
"It doesn't matter. Dortmund is tough. It would have been for Porto, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, all of them. In these stages you try to do a first good game, then after a good second one. If we are able to do two good games, we will go through. If Dortmund do, they will go through. No more secrets than that.
"Away to Leeds is not the best team to face between two legs, but I have now two weeks to analyse and see how they do with a new manager."
City have won the FA Cup once under Guardiola, and the Spaniard is not taking quarter-final opponents Everton for granted despite enjoying a 3-1 win at Goodison Park last month.
Guardiola said: "It's one game, we've won once, semi-final twice so it's not bad. I'm not saying we don't take this competition seriously. I know how important it is in this country, for us as well. Quarter-finals, Goodison Park, Everton away is tough.
"It was a few weeks ago we were there, we knew how difficult it was to beat them. (Dominic) Calvert-Lewin is back and is an important striker for them. It's the last game before the international break, hopefully we can finish well and when it restarts it's an important part of the season."
On Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti, he added: "He has been with the best clubs in Europe. I know how the people talk about him as a manager and a person. He took care of me when I started. I visited him when he was in Milan I admire him a lot.
"He allowed me to see one or two training sessions. He was so kind. We talked about life, football. Nothing special. But you feel when the people take care of other people and he's one of them for sure.
"[The Manchester United loss] proves we are not [unbeatable]. Different games, competitions, it's a final tomorrow, away. You have to realise how they play, how we can find space and control set-pieces. The quality of the players are there. No doubt about that, they are doing well in the Premier League this season, fighting for the Champions League."