Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has played down suggestions of John Stones being a guaranteed starter following his return from injury.
The 25-year-old centre-back has sporadically featured this season for the defending Premier League champions and was recently sidelined with a muscle injury.
How has Stones fared at City? Five key things to know…
- John Stones joined Man City from Everton for a reported £47.5m in 2016.
- He’s gone on to make 114 appearances in all competitions, registering five goals and one assist.
- However, the England international has struggled to stay fit and picked up numerous muscle injuries.
- Stones has consequently missed 26 matches due to injury.
- He was overlooked in City’s recent Champions League game against Atalanta with Guardiola preferring midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri in central defence.
Stones has experienced spells outside the first team before due to persistent injury problems which, at times, has seen him struggle to become a regular fixture in Guardiola’s team.
Aymeric Laporte’s absence following a serious knee injury opened the door for Stones but Guardiola, renowned for thinking outside the box, has instead opted for defensive midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri to partner Nicolás Otamendi or each other at centre-back.
In fact, in their recent Champions League win over Serie A outfit Atalanta, Guardiola chose to go with an all-midfield partnership at the heart of the City defence, citing “tactical decisions” as the reason behind his selection.
An injury picked up by Rodri just before the half-time interval did see John Stones come on as a replacement, but Guardiola has suggested it might take a while before the former Barnsley defender is given a starting berth more often.
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“He has had many injuries that’s why he couldn’t play,” he told reporters.
“When he came back last season Vinny [Kompany] and Laporte were in great form, and I wanted to give them regularity. But this season, it’s injury after injury so it takes time to get into rhythm.”