Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola joked that the “sexy” Kalvin Phillips has the “perfect body” after revealing last week that the England midfielder was overweight.
Phillips was on the bench for City’s 3-1 win at his former club Leeds on Wednesday night, having been left out of the Carabao Cup squad in last week’s victory against Liverpool.
Guardiola said after the fourth round victory: “He is not injured. He arrived overweight (from the World Cup). He did not arrive in the condition for training and to play.”
But the Spaniard has now made a U-turn regarding the 27-year-old’s weight issues and says the midfielder could play a part in their next game at home to Everton on New Year’s Eve, having recovered from shoulder surgery earlier this month.
“He [Phillips] now has the perfect body – so sexy,” Guardiola said after the victory at Elland Road.
“We’ll see for the weekend. He has been out for the first part of the season with surgery to arrive for the World Cup – and has done everything he can to get to the World Cup.
“It’s not just about being fit, you also have to understand what we want to do, the movements etc.
“So that means as soon as possible because Rodri can’t play all the matches, so he will play as soon as possible.
“But I am happy that Kalvin trained very well yesterday, for example, and sooner or later he will play.”
Haaland: I’m ‘hungry’ after World Cup absence
Erling Haaland said missing the World Cup drove him “a little crazy” and made him “hungry” after scoring twice in the win over Leeds.
The Norwegian striker has now scored 26 goals in 20 appearances for City in all competitions since his summer move from Dortmund, including 20 in 14 top-flight appearances.
“I’ve been home, a little bit angry because I’m not playing at the World Cup,” said Haaland Amazon Prime.
“Seeing other people score to win games at the World Cup triggers me, motivates me and irritates me. I’m hungrier and more ready than ever.”
But Guardiola, whose side moved back into second place and narrowed the gap to leaders Arsenal to five points, claimed Haaland is still not at his best.
“He is an incredible threat to us and is always in the right place at the right time, very well.
“I think he’s still not at his best because of the injury. Moving his huge body isn’t easy for him, but no matter how many minutes he can play, he’ll get better.”
Guardiola said Haaland, who joined City from Borussia Dortmund for £52.1 million in June, has not yet fully recovered from a foot injury sustained in the Champions League goalless draw against his former club in October.
“I feel like he’s not at his best,” Guardiola added. “It’s a matter of time. Always an incredible threat to the opponent.
“Of course we are delighted, but that little (little extra) pace he had at the start of the season, he is struggling a bit.
“I’m still more than happy, but the first part of the season he was sharper. He’s getting better and better, incredible professional. He takes care of his body and mind.”
Guardiola: Grealish has to block negative thoughts
City lost their final league game before the World Cup break to Brentford but dominated West Yorkshire from the start, with Haaland wasting no time with a first try on goal as his effort to get the ball into the net saw well rescued after just 36 minutes. seconds.
Against the side who conceded 11 goals in two league matches last season, Leeds held off as Haaland had another golden opportunity to break the deadlock, but again failed to beat Meslier.
Opportunities kept coming and going for City, but eventually, with their 16th shot in the opening period alone, Rodri was poised to fire in the opener.
Alfie Haaland took 181 Premier League appearances to score 18 goals in the league, but his son needed just 14 to catch up, netting Grealish’s pass six minutes into the second half to double City’s lead.
Haaland then broke the record for the number of games it took to reach 20 by converting another Grealish pass to make it three, reaching the milestone in seven games short of the previous record holder, Kevin Phillips.
Grealish was guilty of missing a few golden chances and Guardiola said: “He got two assists but of course he has to score goals. The chances are there and it’s a matter of mentality. We’ve seen in the training sessions he has the ability to put the ball in the net. He’s not a striker, but he has the ability to do it. He can’t have negativity in his head.”
Marsh: We are making progress
Leeds boss Jesse Marsch was in charge of Haaland during his time at RB Salzburg and has seen the 22-year-old grow into one of the world’s best strikers.
Marsch said: “I’m just really happy for him. In some ways it’s painful to watch him score. I want it in another set.
“But when you know some of these young men and you see their qualities as people, you just want them to be their best – just not against you.
‘But my God, I’m happy for him. He’s such a great person and I’m very happy for him.”
Leeds remain 15th in the table, two points above the relegation zone with a game at hand against most of their rivals, following their eighth league defeat of the season, all of which have come in their last 12 games.
Marsch, whose side will play at Newcastle in three days, added: “They (City) got three on that day, so to say it was great is not true, but you know when you play these games the opponents are so good.” .
“But we are making progress and we need to stay focused on our process.”
Manchester City welcome Everton in a 3pm kick-off on New Year’s Eve, when Leeds take on Newcastle at St James’ Park.