Pep Guardiola throws down gauntlet to Aymeric Laporte and challenges him to dislodge John Stones or Ruben Dias after Man City’s new centre-back partnership blossoms in his absence
- Aymeric Laporte has returned to training this week following a hamstring injury
- Laporte is likely to feature in the FA Cup match against Cheltenham on Saturday
- Ruben Dias and John Stones have formed a strong partnership in his absence
Pep Guardiola has challenged Aymeric Laporte to prove he can dislodge Manchester City’s immoveable wall of Ruben Dias and John Stones.
Laporte returned to training from a hamstring injury this week but has spent the majority of the season watching City’s new central defensive partnership blossom.
The 26-year-old is likely to feature against Cheltenham Town in the FA Cup at the weekend, although is not deemed ready for Wednesday’s clash with Aston Villa.
Aymeric Laporte has been told he must earn his place back in Manchester City’s starting XI
John Stones and Ruben Dias have formed a strong partnership in Laporte’s absence
‘It depends on him,’ Guardiola said. ‘He has to be focused to come back in the best condition possible and he will get his minutes. After, it depends on performance. It depends on the form of everyone.
‘His quality is there. Be in top form and have his mind open. He’s the best left-sided defender. He has special quality with the ball. We need him, (but) we need Nathan Ake and Eric Garcia (as well).’
Dias has arguably been the signing of the season. The Portuguese has conceded only one goal in 10 matches alongside Stones. City have kept six consecutive clean sheets.
Guardiola has promised Laporte minutes but wants the central defender to prove himself
‘Ruben’s impact has been massive,’ Guardiola added. ‘Not just with John, it was when he played alongside Ayme, Eric or Nathan.
‘He is a guy with ability to live every single action during 95 minutes, always concentrated in what has to do and help his mates, the holding midfielders, the full backs. He is always concentrating and that is not easy to find in a 23-year-old.
‘It’s really good, we cannot win titles if you are not solid – (especially) with scoring goals we were struggling.’
Stones scored twice on Sunday as City comfortably saw off the challenge of Crystal Palace
City are still without Sergio Aguero on Wednesday night as they bid to top the Premier League with victory, if only for a few hours before Manchester United face Fulham.
Aguero remains in self-isolation, with Gabriel Jesus leading the line in his absence. ‘His numbers speak for themselves,’ Guardiola said. ‘The best striker in our history, he can create and win games by himself.
‘We could have complained but we did the opposite, we want him back but we have to move forward, find alternatives, use the quality we have and move forward.’