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Guardiola hails Haaland’s ‘special mentality’ to seek out goals

Pep Guardiola believes Erling Haaland’s strong mentality is the key to the Norwegian’s scoring prowess despite trying to take pressure off the 23-year-old’s shoulders.

Haaland scored his first goals since November in a 2-0 win over Everton on Saturday after spending two months on the sidelines due to a foot injury.

His return allied to Kevin De Bruyne’s recent comeback from a five-month absence with a hamstring injury comes at the perfect time for City ahead of their Champions League last 16, first leg away to FC Copenhagen on Tuesday.

Haaland has scored 40 goals in just 35 Champions League appearances, including 17 in 16 for City as he fired the English champions to win the competition for the first time last season.

“We don’t put pressure on him and say ‘you have to score goals for us’. No, we said ‘get involved with what we do and the rest will come naturally’,” said Guardiola at his pre-match press conference.

“He is so strong mentally after one goal, he wants a second one and then a third.

“You see his numbers at his age – in the Champions League even (Lionel) Messi does not have these numbers art his age.

“It’s unbelievable. He has scored goals everywhere all the time. He has a special mentality and attributes and skills.

“We are delighted to have him. And we are delighted he is back after two months out.”

The holders are huge favourites to roll over the Danish champions, who will be playing for the first time in two months due to the winter break in their domestic league.

However, Guardiola warned his players against complacency after seeing Copenhagen dump out Manchester United in the group stages and run Bayern Munich close over two games.

“I have huge respect (for them). I said to the players this morning you have to prepare mentally and be ready to suffer,” added Guardiola.

“It will be a tight, tight game, 100 percent. I feel it – and normally my guts don’t lie to me!”

Guardiola has the luxury of a full-fit squad to choose from.

De Bruyne, Kyle Walker and Bernardo Silva are expected to return to the starting line-up after being left on the bench against Everton.

Copenhagen boss Jacob Neestrup believes his side are coming up against the best team in the world.

But he backed his players to pose City a challenge.

“For me they are the best team in the world right now. Of course it is the biggest test and the biggest test we’ve had in this season so far,” said Neestrup.

“But I really don’t care how good they are. They are a good team but I trust our players and have a big belief that we can create a good performance and create as even a game as possible.”

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