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Haaland ruled out of Man City's crucial trip to Brighton


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Manchester City's Premier League title bid suffered a blow after Norway striker Erling Haaland was ruled out of Thursday's crucial clash at Brighton.

Haaland missed City's 1-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday due to a muscle injury sustained in the Champions League quarter-final exit against Real Madrid last week.

City's leading scorer, who has 20 Premier League goals this season, is yet to recover and will not make the trip to the Amex Stadium as the champions look to close the gap on leaders Arsenal.

City boss Pep Guardiola insisted Haaland's injury was not serious and he could come back into contention in time for Sunday's game against Nottingham Forest.

While Haaland is sidelined, Guardiola was boosted by England internationals Phil Foden and John Stones getting the green light to face Brighton after their own fitness concerns.

"Erling is not ready for tomorrow. The other two, they are ready," Guardiola told reporters on Wednesday.

"I know it is not a big issue, but he is not allowed for this game."

As a gripping title race approaches the final furlong, third-placed City are four points behind leaders Arsenal, who thrashed Chelsea 5-0 on Tuesday.

Guardiola's men have two games in hand on Arsenal and have played one match fewer than second-placed Liverpool, who face Merseyside rivals Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday.

City will be crowned champions for an unprecedented fourth successive season if they win their last six games.

But Guardiola warned his players not to underestimate Brighton, whose manager Roberto De Zerbi has earned his City counterpart's respect.

"Brighton away, if you put it in my calendar, is one of the toughest ones for the way we play," he said.

"My admiration is growing every season. They have a lot of injuries and play three competitions, but the way they play is always there. He (De Zerbi) is doing an incredible job at Brighton."

If City hold off the challenges from north London and Merseyside, it would extend a spell of dominance from Guardiola's men, who face Manchester United in the FA Cup final in May.

Guardiola has bemoaned the hectic schedule that he believes has put his players' health at risk, yet he has no intention of resting his stars with the title in his sights.

"Every person has their (preferred) starting XI, but everyone has their contribution. Now we've had three or four days since the last game against Chelsea and tomorrow is one of the toughest games of the season," he said.

"Every game is adrenaline and important, but this is decisive.

"Now every mistake or step back makes it more difficult, but it is what it is. We have been here these last years, fortunately many times, so that's how we know what we are playing for."

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