As Manchester City returned to training over the weekend, Pep Guardiola will likely be boosted by the appearance of three players in particular in the squad sessions.
Manchester Evening News reported that the defensive trio of John Stones, Benjamin Mendy and Aymeric Laporte, all of whom had been injury concerns prior to the football season being paused in mid-March, were all spotted training at the City Football Academy.
Mendy had been absent for a brief period in the early weeks of 2020, Stones was sidelined just before the season ground to a halt and Laporte, having suffered a serious knee injury back in August, was forced off in the first half of the Champions League win over Real Madrid three months ago.
Had that trio still been absent through injury, it would have left Guardiola sweating on his defensive options ahead of the prospective return of the Premier League. Mendy’s only natural left-back alternative is Oleksandr Zinchenko, who had started just four matches in 2020, while the sparsity of centre-back options would also have been stark.
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Aside from Stones and Laporte, 32-year-old Nicolas Otamendi is the only senior centre-back in Manchester City’s squad. Guardiola could have, and may still decide to, put his faith in Eric Garcia and Joel Latibeaudiere, but at 19 and 20 respectively he would probably not want to have been so reliant on such an inexperienced duo. [via TransferMarkt]
He may have been looking at Fernandinho to continue filling in at centre-back just as he has done throughout the season, although that has seen the Brazilian discommoded from his usual defensive midfield position.
Manchester City had conceded 31 goals in 28 league games prior to the season being halted, eight more than they shipped in the entirety of last year’s 38-match Premier League-winning campaign. Their goal concession per game average has jumped from 0.61 in 2018/19 to 1.11 this term.
The lack of a central defensive purchase to replace Vincent Kompany has come back to haunt them this season, so Guardiola should be very encouraged to see three defenders who had experienced injury concerns earlier in the year looking sharp and ready for selection once football resumes.
Man City fans, how much of a boost would it be to have a full defensive roster available if the Premier League resumes next month? Comment below with your views!
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