Guardiola excludes Haaland and De Bruyne for the Aston Villa game

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola benched Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne for Wednesday’s vital Premier League match against Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium.

Guardiola vehemently defended Haaland at his pre-match press conference, following criticism from former Manchester United captain Roy Keane.

During Sunday’s 0-0 home draw with Arsenal, Keane said the Norwegian’s overall play was only fit for a player in England’s fourth-tier League Two.

Haaland, who scored 52 goals as City won the Champions League, Premier League, and FA Cup last season, has struggled to find his best form since sustaining a foot injury in a 1-0 loss to Villa in December.

The 23-year-old has 29 goals in all competitions this season, but he has failed to score in 12 of his past 17 club and international matches, going goalless in his last five.

Guardiola makes four changes in total, with Rico Lewis, Jack Grealish, Jeremy Doku, and Julian Alvarez replacing the injured Nathan Ake and Mateo Kovacic.

Villa are also missing a couple of vital players: top scorer Ollie Watkins and Argentine World Cup-winning goalkeeper Emi Martinez are sidelined due to injury and illness, respectively.

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