No changing of guards at City

Eliaquim Mangala, seen here in a challenge with Chelsea striker Radamel Falcao, has formed a solid defensive partnership with City captain Vincent Kompany in the first two matches of the EPL season.
Eliaquim Mangala, seen here in a challenge with Chelsea striker Radamel Falcao, has formed a solid defensive partnership with City captain Vincent Kompany in the first two matches of the EPL season.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Pellegrini will retain line-up that kept clean sheets in two 3-0 wins, new signing Otamendi will have to fight for place

LONDON • Manchester City may have signed centre-back Nicolas Otamendi for £32 million (S$70 million) but there is no guarantee that he will straight away be in the English Premier League football club's starting XI.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini made it clear on Friday that the Argentinian international, 27, will have to wait to dislodge captain Vincent Kompany or his former Porto team-mate Eliaquim Mangala.

The latter became the most costly defender in British football history at £42 million 12 months ago.

"In this moment, in the way we are playing, it is impossible to move Kompany and Mangala from their (central defence) positions and all the rest of the players," said Pellegrini, whose side beat champions Chelsea last weekend to record a second successive 3-0 win.

"They are in a good moment. We did not concede one goal in the last two games. We continue playing with the same (players)."

City, who topped the table on Friday, will equal a club record of nine successive league victories if they win at Everton today.

However, Pellegrini said he was more interested in maintaining their impressive start to the season.

"It matters to have three more points in the table," he said. "It's very important to continue in the same way we played the first two games because we must be a consistent team during the whole season. If that is a new record, that is a thing for me that is not important."

City will have close-season signing Fabian Delph in their squad for the first time after the England international midfielder recovered from a hamstring injury.

However, Pablo Zabaleta will be out for up to a month with a knee injury suffered in training.

"It's the first time in 12 years of senior football that I have ever been injured like this, so it's a blow, especially at the start of the season," said the right-back.

Everton can be happy with their start to the season, having collected four points from two games.

Yet, their on-field displays continue to be overshadowed, up to a point, by conjecture over the future of John Stones.

The centre-back's composure under pressure is one of the key reasons Chelsea want to buy him.

And he has demonstrated that by continuing to play well when others might have crumbled under such a weight of attention.

Roberto Martinez is happy to pick Stones to face City but has acknowledged that speculation surrounding the player's future will continue right up to the transfer deadline on Sept 1.

"I don't think it's healthy for anyone when you have the window open after the season starts," the manager said.

"We should be talking about the game at the weekend."

He has described City as "the sharpest team in the league" which means Stones and the rest of Everton's defence will do well to match the clean sheet they achieved in last Saturday's impressive 3-0 win at Southampton.

The manager does have an extra attacking option with which to test the City defence, though.

Belgian winger Kevin Mirallas has recovered from an ankle knock he suffered during a 2-2 home draw with Watford on the season's opening day. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE,

THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline 'NO CHANGING OF GUARDS AT CITY'. Print Edition | Subscribe