(REUTERS) - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says John Stones and Ruben Dias deserve to continue their partnership at the heart of the defence and called on Aymeric Laporte to keep pushing hard in training to earn his chance.
The duo put in an assured display in Saturday's (Dec 12) 0-0 draw with Manchester United, City's third successive clean sheet in the English Premier League.
"There are players that - if I drop them or they're not even in the squad - it would not be fair to them," Guardiola told the club's website. "That's why sometimes I have to handle the balance of the team.
"Laporte deserves to be in the team but Stones and Dias also deserve to be in the team. They played incredibly well in the last games - they did not make a single mistake.
"Laporte will be back. The season is long. What the players have to do is work harder, better... and the moment will come. When that moment comes, they need to give a good performance."
Guardiola also said veteran Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero is nearing full fitness but will not be rushed back into action.
"He was fit (for the United game) but not selected. With Sergio, it's one step at a time," the Spaniard added.
"He had one week's training session after four months out. Hopefully, he can come back and train and get as many minutes as soon as possible."
City, who are ninth with 19 points from 11 games, six points behind joint leaders Tottenham and Liverpool, host West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday (Dec 15).