'Gary Neville can be happy' - Pep Guardiola says Man City will name an 18-man squad against Leicester
Pep Guardiola is hopeful Riyad Mahrez will line up for Leicester City against Manchester City on Saturday.
Guardiola tried and failed to sign Mahrez on transfer deadline day last month with the Premier League leaders unwilling to meet Leicester City’s £95 million valuation of the Algeria playmaker.
Mahrez reacted by going on strike, much to Leicester City’s dismay, although the 2016 PFA Player of the Year ended his self-imposed exile by returning to training on Friday morning and has declared himself available to play against the club he wanted to join at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening.
Whether Leicester City manager Claude Puel opts to include Mahrez in his 18-man squad remains to be seen but Guardiola hopes he features.
“Hopefully he will play, I want him to come back soon and play, we enjoy watching him and hopefully he’ll come back soon with Leicester and play at his level,” the Manchester City manager said.
Guardiola will be without the injured Leroy Sane, David Silva, Gabriel Jesus, Fabian Delph and Benjamin Mendy on Saturday but John Stones is available again after illness along with Phil Foden, who has been out for seven weeks with ankle ligament damage.
Guardiola said Sane will not be fit for the Champions League Round of 16, first leg away to Basel on Tuesday but revealed the Germany winger was running again and hinted he could be back sooner than expected. Sane was initially ruled out until late March with ankle ligament damage but could now be back this month.
Guardiola, who also said Jesus would be back within the next fortnight, took a pot-shot at Gary Neville by insisting he would name a full substitutes’ bench against Leicester City.
Sky Sports pundit Neville had criticised Guardiola for only naming six substitutes for the 1-1 draw at Burnley last Saturday and not giving the seventh and final place to a youth team player. Guardiola said he had not done so because the Under-23 team had a game on the Friday evening against Swansea.
“We’ll be 18 on the bench tomorrow ,” Guardiola said. “Gary Neville can be happy. I am happy.”