Manchester City defender John Stones is in line to make his return to the starting line-up in Saturday’s Premier League clash against Aston Villa.
BBC reported that the 25-year-old could make his first start since mid-September at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, although Rodri is ruled out as he awaits diagnosis on a suspected hamstring injury.
BBC added that Pep Guardiola will also be without Oleksandr Zinchenko, who will be absent for the foreseeable future as he recovers from knee surgery.
He was also brought on in the midweek Champions League victory over Atalanta, but despite his return to fitness, he was still left out of the starting XI on both occasions at the expense of Rodri and Fernandinho, both of whom are defensive midfielders filling in at centre-back.
Of all players who have started a Premier League game for Manchester City this season, Stones has had the best passing success rate with 93.2%. [via WhoScored]
However, his match averages for successful aerial duels (two), successful tackles (1.3), interceptions (0.3) and clearances are lower than those of both Rodri and Fernandinho. [via WhoScored]
That duo won 10 aerial duels between them at Selhurst Park last week but had just one successful tackle, although Rodri won four tackles in the 5-1 defeat of Atalanta in his 41 minutes on the pitch before being replaced by Stones, who, despite playing for slightly longer did not record any successful tackles.
From those statistics, it would seem that Rodri and Fernandinho have proven quite capable of operating effectively at centre-back in Stones’ absence, something that may give Guardiola food for thought when all three are available.
That Guardiola preferred to go with two defensive midfielders at centre-back in the last couple of games despite having Stones available is not a great indictment of the England defender, even if he was just back from injury.
The 25-year-old was also admonished publicly by his manager in midweek over the delay in getting ready to come on for Rodri against Atalanta, as noted by talkSPORT, so he could do with a commanding performance against Aston Villa to get back in Guardiola’s good books.
Although Manchester City should expect to win at home to a team 10 places below them in the table, Stones would be well advised to anticipate busy moments during the game, given that only four teams have more Premier League goals this season than Dean Smith’s side prior to this weekend’s games.
Manchester City fans, do you think Stones has a lot to prove this weekend if he is chosen to start against Aston Villa? Share your views in the comments section below!
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