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Guardiola hopes City target Mahrez plays against them on Saturday

The Leicester winger only returned to training on Friday after the collapse of a January move.

Pep Guardiola is happy to face Leicester's Riyad Mahrez at his best
Pep Guardiola is happy to face Leicester's Riyad Mahrez at his best

By Andy Hampson, Press Association Sport

Pep Guardiola wants Manchester City to face a Leicester side containing Riyad Mahrez this weekend.

The City manager says he hopes to see the Algeria forward back at his best following the collapse of a potential move to the Etihad Stadium and a subsequent spell in self-imposed exile.

Mahrez failed to report for training for over a week after Leicester refused to sell the 26-year-old below their £95million asking price. City were prepared to pay no more than £60million.

On Thursday Leicester boss Claude Puel ruled Mahrez out of Saturday’s clash against the Premier League leaders but it is understood the player has since returned to training and made himself available.

Asked if he wanted Mahrez to play, Guardiola said: “Hopefully. I wish he comes back soon to play football because we enjoy watching him play.

“Hopefully as soon as possible he comes back with Leicester and plays at his level.”

Guardiola expects to be able to name a full compliment of substitutes for the game after having only six on his bench at Burnley last week due to injuries.

Defender John Stones and midfielder Phil Foden are both available again following spells on the sidelines.

Guardiola’s selection of six substitutes at Turf Moor drew criticism from former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville who, in his role as a Sky Sports pundit, referred to it as “a joke”.

“We’ll have 18 players, (including) on the bench, so Gary Neville can be happy,” said Guardiola at his pre-match press conference. “I am happy.”

With no game in midweek, Guardiola gave his players three days off earlier in the week. With the Champions League due to resume next week and City still involved in both domestic cup competitions, Guardiola hopes that serves his squad well.

He said: “We will see. If we win it’s good, if we don’t then (people say), ‘Why do it?’. But we’ve had a lot of games since August, just one midweek off. We needed it.”

One player Guardiola would like to rest more is top scorer Sergio Aguero but, with Gabriel Jesus still out for possibly another fortnight, that is not an option.

He said: “I would like to give him a rest sometimes but he’s the only striker that we have. He is making a huge effort and doing really well but Gabriel is coming back soon.”

City dropped points for only the fourth time this season at Burnley and Guardiola is expecting a tough challenge from Claude Puel’s Leicester, regardless of whether Mahrez plays.

He said: “He is an experienced manager and did really well last season at Southampton. Leciester still have the basic fundamentals they had that helped them to be champions but he has introduced a bit of something else. They play more, they play between channels and have more passes.

“They are always a strong team. We cannot forget – it was not one century ago, it was two seasons ago – they were champions.”

Press Association

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