Guardiola backs Haaland to fire against Real in 2nd leg

Manchester City's Erling Braut Haaland during the UEFA Champions League semi final 1st leg between Real Madrid and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain on 9 May 2023Reuters

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has backed striker Erling Haaland to rediscover his best form when they host Real Madrid in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final after the Norwegian failed to find the net at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Haaland has scored a record 51 goals in all competitions in the current campaign but was kept quiet by Real defender Antonio Rudiger in the 1-1 first-leg draw last Tuesday.

Real Madrid's Thibaut Courtois in action against Manchester CIty's Erling Haaland

“Congratulations to Rudiger. But Erling, we cannot forget, is 22 years old and it was the first time he played in the semi-finals of the Champions League,” Guardiola told reporters. He was speaking ahead of Sunday’s Premier League game against Everton.

“For the first time to go to the Bernabeu, one of the biggest stages, against a top-class club with good defenders, midfielders and strikers, next time will be a little bit easier.

“If the team is able to play a little bit better in some departments in the way we are thinking for Wednesday, maybe it would be easier for him.”

Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior shakes hands with Manchester City's Erling Haaland after the match

Before the encounter against the LaLiga giants, treble-chasing City will look to go four points clear at the top of the league table when they travel to 17th-placed Everton on Sunday.

“The Premier League title is so important even though I know the Champions League is so special. It’s many, many months and many, many tough games, incredible effort; this is the most important thing,” Guardiola added.

“At the end, come on. What a privilege. The club takes care of us perfectly. We have to be ready to do it.”