Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch revealed he has been educating his players about the danger posed by Manchester City striker Erling Haaland as the pair get set for a reunion at Elland Road on Wednesday night.
Marsch was Haaland's manager for one year at Austrian side RB Salzburg, where the Norwegian, then a teenager, scored 29 goals in 27 appearances before joining Borussia Dortmund in January 2020.
Haaland, 23, has been prolific throughout his career and has set the Premier League alight during his debut season with City, topping the scoring charts with 18 goals in 13 games and 24 across all competitions.
Well rested after Norway failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, there is an expectation that Haaland should capitalise on any weary defences, with Leeds first up for champions City on their return to Premier League duty. Indeed, Haaland has already scored since the end of the World Cup, netting the first in a 3-2 win over Liverpool in the League Cup.
To add to the sense of reunion, his father Alfie played for Leeds for three years and Haaland Jr was born in the city.
Factoring it all in, Marsch is expecting Haaland to be extra motivated on Wednesday and conceded that could cause some problems for his Leeds side. However, the American believes his intimate knowledge of working with the striker should help Leeds's chances.
"It will help us I think a little bit. It will motivate him on the day a little bit, but it will motivate me as well," Marsch said. "The time I had with Erling was just outstanding and we had an incredible relationship.
“In general, I have some ideas of things we will try to do, but it will come down to luck on the day in certain moments and finding ways to contain him and hoping that we can still find ways to punish him as well.”
Marsch admitted, though, that having a plan for Haaland is one thing, but how his players execute it is another.
“Obviously I know how good he is and I know how good he can be when he is at his best," he said. “It will certainly be important for us to manage him on the day. I have been asked many times, how do you do that?
“And the answer is I think you have to have a keen awareness of where he is at all times and where he likes to be. Certainly his ability to run hard into the box, his ability to run hard in transition, his ability to do whatever it takes around the goal to get on the end of plays.
“So he is often not the one that is starting the plays, but he is always thinking about where he can be so he can be finishing it and his instincts in that manner are incredibly unique.”
While Haaland is City's chief goal threat, Pep Guardiola's squad is packed with attacking riches, including winger Riyad Mahrez, and the Algerian has urged his team to "hit the ground running" on their return to the Premier League. Champions City trail leaders Arsenal by eight points, albeit having played one game fewer.
"We are not currently top of the Premier League and that is where we want to be,” he said. “We will take it game by game but our aim to try to win another title.
“There are lots of strong teams in England who could still win the league so we are not just focused on Arsenal, although they have been very good so far. If we want to win the league, we will have to be ready as soon as the league starts again."
Mahrez is expecting a tough challenge against a Leeds side who have won two of their last three league matches, including a 2-1 victory against Liverpool at Anfield, but insisted City are ready.
“Leeds are a big club and it's a hard place to go but we know what to expect from them," he said. “We will be prepared for it and hopefully we can come away with the three points."