Aymeric Laporte is set to undertake a big role for Manchester City in Ruben Dias’ absence over the coming weeks, with Pep Guardiola expected to start the Spaniard in tonight’s clash against Crystal Palace.
The Lowdown: Dias struck by injury
Ahead of the recent derby against Manchester United, the City manager announced that the Portugal defender had suffered a hamstring injury against Peterborough in the FA Cup and would likely be sidelined for four to six weeks.
This came as a huge blow for City, as it meant they were set to be without their star defender for the majority of their remaining league fixtures, with Liverpool currently just three points behind them in the Premier League table.
The Latest: Big role for Laporte
After Laporte was dropped last season following a disappointing performance against Tottenham, John Stones came in to form a dominant partnership with Dias, which proved formidable for the rest of the season.
This left the Spain international out of favour under Guardiola, but in the wake of a positive Euro 2020 campaign with La Roja, the 27-year-old has forced his way back into his manager’s plans at club level.
More recently, Dias’ injury has led to an increase in Laporte’s role in the squad, and as per Manchester Evening News reporter Simon Bajkowski, he is set to retain his role in the starting XI for tonight’s trip to Crystal Palace.
Guardiola said of the Spain defender: “He deserves his minutes. Nathan [Ake] is coming back but Ruben will be a long time so he is still weeks away from coming back. We need Ayme fresh and in the best condition possible.”
The Verdict: Laporte now needs to step up
This opportunity for Laporte hasn’t come without warning from Guardiola. Whilst claiming that the defender is the perfect age to improve, the 51-year-old has said that the centre-back must be willing to learn in the absence of the former Benfica man.
Since his arrival at City, Dias has proven to be an integral part of Guardiola’s plans, being named the Football Writers’ Player of the Year for 2020/21. Consequently, the battle for a centre-back starting berth has been tough to secure, with Nathan Ake joining Stones and Laporte in the fight to partner the 24-year-old Portugal star.
The £120,000-per-week Spain defender has been a regular at the Etihad this season, starting 23 Premier League games, but the three aforementioned centre-backs have all posted higher WhoScored ratings over the campaign. Therefore, Laporte must seize this chance to prove to his manager that he can fill the void left by Dias’ absence.
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