LONDON – With the World Cup just less than three weeks away, England fans are concerned that the Three Lions may miss more key players than just Chelsea right-back Reece James.
However, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola eased those fears on Tuesday by saying that Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips are likely to recover from their injuries before the global showpiece begins in Qatar on Nov 20.
Walker underwent groin surgery in early October, while Phillips has been sidelined due to a shoulder problem. The City duo are racing against time to be fit before England begin their World Cup campaign against Iran in Group B on Nov 21.
England, who will also face Wales and the United States in their group, reached the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“It’s likely (they can be ready), the way they recover,” said Guardiola ahead of his side’s Champions League Group G home clash against Sevilla on Wednesday. City are guaranteed to finish top regardless of the result.
“I don’t know intentions for (England boss) Gareth (Southgate). He spoke with the players and doctors regularly. They know better than me. What I hear in the dressing rooms is that they can be ready.”
Asked if Walker and Phillips are desperate to return, he replied: “I would say yes. You don’t play a World Cup every week.”
Phillips has been doing partial training sessions with the team but has yet to resume contact training, Guardiola confirmed.
“We’ll see his evolution. I know how important is the World Cup but I don’t use a player I don’t think is ready,” he added when asked if Phillips could play for City before the World Cup.
“Kyle, I’m impressed how quick his recovery (is) but still a bit late compared to Kalvin.”
Guardiola also said that he will not be going to Qatar, adding that “home with the red wine is the best way to watch”.
The City boss will likely rotate the squad for the game against Sevilla with nothing at stake, but the team will be without injured striker Erling Haaland, who also missed their 1-0 league win at Leicester City last weekend.
“He feels better... Still not 100 per cent, so we don’t want to take a risk. Hopefully we have him against Fulham (on Saturday),” Guardiola said.
“The players who don’t play regularly will play. Potentially they play (Cole Palmer and Rico Lewis) but let me see the training session.”
City are top of Group G on 11 points, Borussia Dortmund are in second on eight, while Sevilla – who will drop to the Europa League – have five points, three more than FC Copenhagen.
Guardiola’s men have won 81 per cent of their Champions League home games since the Spaniard took over in 2016, which is the highest home win percentage in the competition’s history after at least 20 games under the same manager.
The former Barcelona coach also knows his opponents well, having lost just two of his previous 13 encounters against them.
Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli, meanwhile, has provided an update on Jesus Corona’s injury.
“He is progressing day by day, his discharge date to return to training with the group is Dec 1 or 2,” he said of the Mexican winger.
“So I do not see him having that possibility (of playing at the World Cup) due to the medical report.” REUTERS