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 £95m asking price. City were prepared to pay no more than £60million.
On Thursday Leicester boss Claude Puel ruled Mahrez out of today’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 complement 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.”
Guardiola said he had no alternative due to injuries and he did not want to call up a player from the under-23s – as Neville advocated while on duty as a Sky Sports pundit – because they had played the night before.
Further explaining the situation, Guardiola said.
“It would not have been correct to go the manager, who is preparing for the game, and say, ‘I need one or two players to go on the bench,’ when they are going to play. For that reason, I didn’t call him. This guy, the pundit, he has to know my job is serious. It’s not a joke, never is it a joke. It’s so serious. And he should know that because he was a manager… for a short time.”
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.”
Leicester manager Claude Puel holds no hard feelings towards Manchester City over the Riyad Mahrez saga.
“There’s no revenge about Manchester City, or the club,” said the Frenchman.
“We are professionals without feelings like that. I think it is important to keep it clear and always have a good focus about our play.”
For his part, Mahrez released a statement in which he said he said “presumptions” about his absence were “totally without foundation”
“My goals have always been the same and I have always given my full 100 per cent when I play for the club the fans and my team-mates.
“Those goals remain the same today and in the future and when I am asked to be a part of the Leicester team, rest assured I will continue to give my all.”.
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