Guardiola will not rush Laporte back to tighten defence

LONDON • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is impressed with Aymeric Laporte's progress after injury, but insisted that the club will have to wait for the medical all-clear before the defender can return to first-team action.

Laporte damaged cartilage and the lateral meniscus in his right knee in August and had surgery the following month, but is now back training on his own.

"He is training every day and has finished the training with a good feeling and no pain," Guardiola told reporters ahead of City's Premier League trip to Aston Villa today.

"I don't know when he will be ready to play some minutes, but of course it is closer. He is moving well so I think the operation was good."

City's failure to replace departed club captain Vincent Kompany exacerbated the problem caused by Laporte's loss.

The lack of form and fitness of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi has forced Guardiola to pick converted midfielder Fernandinho as his first-choice centre-back.

In Laporte's absence, champions City have struggled defensively and slipped 14 points behind league leaders Liverpool, who were on 58 points before their trip to Tottenham yesterday.

"Aymeric with his left foot, plays the left side and he is quick," Guardiola said. "He settled quickly in this league since he arrived.

"Of course (his return) is important for us but we have to respect the process."

Another City player recovering from a long-term knee injury is winger Leroy Sane, who will be a boost to the team's attack.

Guardiola used a striker-less system to beat Manchester United 3-1 in a League Cup semi-final, first-leg win at Old Trafford in midweek.

However, either Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus seems set to return for today's match at Villa.

Aguero is only one goal from equalling Thierry Henry's record of 175 as the top-scoring foreign player in the Premier League.

"To equal or score more goals than a legend like Thierry Henry is incredible," Guardiola said.

"Sergio is a guy with a sense of goal. He scores from everywhere."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 12, 2020, with the headline 'Guardiola will not rush Laporte back to tighten defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe