Pep Guardiola admits he faces a selection headache now that all of his Manchester City stars are back fit as the Premier League title race heats up.
Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Burnley saw Kevin De Bruyne make his first start since the opening day of the season following a hamstring injury, while Erling Haaland returned from a foot problem as a second-half substitute.
But it was again Julian Alvarez who was the star for City, with the Argentinian World Cup winner scoring twice in the first half as City cruised to victory.
The hosts took complete control when Rodri added a third early in the second half before Ameen Al-Dakhil got a late consolation for Vincent Kompany’s men.
Alvarez has enjoyed an extended run in Guardiola’s side this season, in large part thanks to De Bruyne’s absence and his brace took him to 15 goals for the campaign.
“For his age, for the numbers in the Premier League, for what he gives to all the team it is unbelievable,” Guardiola said.
“He’s a world champion playing alongside (Lionel) Messi, (Angel) Di Maria and Enzo Fernandez. If you are not good you cannot play in that team.
“He can play in three different positions and have an incredible sense with the intensity to run. He’s really good.”
That versatility could be key to Alvarez’s hopes of retaining his place in the City starting eleven.
“They can play together,” added. “They are exceptional players. It gives me more of a headache for selection but they need to compete with each other.”
After missing 10 games with a bone injury, Haaland started the night on the bench and came on to replace De Bruyne in the 71st minute. His first attempt at goal was a mis-kick, but Guardiola was pleased with the way he led the line.
Asked if he needed to be eased back in, Guardiola said: “If it was 7-0 at half-time he would have played more minutes. If it was 0-0 maybe he wouldn’t have played a minute.
“I saw him sharp, the feeling that he was there. He didn’t have clear chances but he has three or four, and the moment when Jeremy (Doku) didn’t see him but he can score with his quality.
“It has been really good without him for the last two months but with him we are a better team and we are really pleased that he is back.”
Burnley, without a top-flight win away to Manchester City since 1963, probably knew what to expect from the night, but at least took consolation from Al-Dakhil’s late goal, their first at the Etihad since 2019.
But the loss leaves them still deep in trouble, seven points adrift of safety with only 12 points from 22 games.
“It’s never great when you lose,” former City captain Kompany said. “They’re a great side, we know that. It felt like a lot had to go our way for us to get something.
“In moments we were dangerous. We could’ve avoided the goals. We have to move on against Fulham (on Saturday).
“My job is to give the guys support in these moments and hold them accountable. But we’re playing against a team that exploits every mistake… we’re showing bits that should make us confident.”
Kompany indicated he is still hopeful of some business before Thursday’s transfer deadline, but admitted finding game-changing signings was highly unlikely.
“I hope something will happen tomorrow,” he said. “We have to rely on the boys we have. You can make miracle transfers but they’re very difficult to find.”