Refs must protect City players, demands Silva

Bernardo Silva believes Manchester City are being unfairly targeted for some rough treatment by opponents.

Refs must protect City players, demands Silva

City players have been on the receiving end of a series of bad tackles over the past two months and manager Pep Guardiola has repeated a call for referees to offer better protection several times.

The controversy continued on Wednesday as Brahim Diaz was caught by a high, studs-up challenge by Matt Phillips late in City’s 3-0 win over West Brom at the Etihad Stadium.

Kevin De Bruyne also managed to skip over a cynical attempt to foul him by James McClean in the build-up to City’s second goal.

This came after City winger Leroy Sane suffered ankle ligament damage that will rule him out for at least six weeks after a tackle from Cardiff’s Joe Bennett last weekend.

Asked if City were being targeted, Silva said: “Obviously. It’s clear over the last few months — we’ve seen with Leroy.

“It was a terrible accident and now he’s injured for two months — a very important player. (On Wednesday) it could have been Brahim and it could have been Kevin on the second goal.

“I think, as the coach says, the referees have to do their job and if it’s a red card, they have to give the red card. They are not doing that over the last few months.

“We hope that soon they start protecting our players because the way other teams are tackling our players it’s not part of the game, it’s not fair play and they have to try to punish the players that play this way.”

City were not completely blameless with regards to tackles, however. David Silva mistimed a challenge on Claudio Yacob — the Spaniard suffering a knock in the process — while Fernandinho stood on Grzegorz Krychowiak in a challenge which was seen as accidental by the referee.

But when in full flow, City were magnificent. Goals from Fernandinho, the outstanding De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero saw the Premier League leaders sweep aside the competition’s bottom side.

The result lifted them 15 points clear at the top of the table, ensuring a day that had seen City frustrated in attempts to sign Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez ended on a high. The title is now in clear sight, with potentially just eight wins required, but Bernardo Silva said: “We have to go game by game. Every game we have to try to get the three points.”

Meanwhile Riyad Mahrez faces a battle to reintegrate himself at Leicester after failing to land a deadline day move. The winger missed training on Tuesday to try to force a switch to City.

The Foxes ultimately asked for £80m cash for the Algeria international which the Premier League leaders were not willing to pay.

City were only ready to offer £50m plus a player they valued at £15m.

Mahrez must now return to the club, with some players understood to be unhappy with how he has conducted himself. It is unclear when he will play for the 2016 Premier League champions again.

A ‘friend’ of Mahrez told Sky Sports the 26-year-old felt down and upset at his treatment by the club. It would be a surprise to see him face Swansea tomorrow.

He missed Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat at Everton with boss Claude Puel hopeful of welcoming Mahrez back into the fold, but remained cautious.

“All the players, all the staff, will help him to come back with a smile, to enjoy his football with his team-mates because he is a great player, fantastic, a good man and he likes football,” he said.

Mahrez asked to leave the Foxes last summer and his stance has not changed, although neither has the club’s.

They do not want to lose him but should Mahrez, who signed a new four-year contract in 2016, leave it will be on their terms.

Leicester will hold out for what they believe is his market value with Philippe Coutinho moving to Barcelona from Liverpool for £142m and Virgil van Dyke going to Anfield for £75m this month.

Mahrez recently moved agents and is now with by Coutinho’s representative Kia Joorabchian.

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