Pep guarded on rushing returning Mendy

Pep Guardiola will not rush Benjamin Mendy back for Manchester City, however keen the Frenchman is to play.

Premier League

Stoke V Manchester City

Tonight: Bet365 Stadium, 8pm

Referee: Jonathan Moss

TV: Sky Spor ts PL

Bet: Stoke City 12/1, Man City 1/5,

Draw 5/1

Left-back Mendy is now back in training with the Premier League leaders after six months on the sidelines following cruciate ligament knee surgery.

Mendy, who made a huge impression in the early weeks of the season after joining City in a £49.1m (€55m) move from Monaco, has said he hopes to return to action next month.

City boss Guardiola wants to err on the side of caution and feels he may have to hold the 23-year-old back for his own good.

Guardiola said: “The most important thing after six months is to be careful.

“He believes, ‘I am strong, I will come back soon, I will play like I did before the injury.’ That is not happening.

Even if he believes he is strong he is not strong enough. After six months, he has to be careful.

“But, of course, it’s so important he comes back. He trains in all the training sessions with us. The knee is going well because he was operated on by the best doctor in the world (Ramon Cugat) for doing that. It’s going really well.

“We are so happy because maybe he can help us for 20 minutes, 25 minutes.”

Mendy’s comeback would then follow a similar path to that of Ilkay Gundogan, who also suffered a serious knee injury in December 2016.

The German was eased back into action at the start of this season but it was not until a year after the injury that he began to start games regularly again.

Guardiola said: “We cannot forget Gundogan played in the past month a lot of games — I think all the games, 90 minutes, except the last one.

“But before that, he played one game, rested for two, one game, rested for two, because after six months, the next step is muscular injuries. You have to try to avoid that.

“Maybe he (Mendy) can go to the World Cup and come back next season stronger.”

City head to Stoke tonight looking to claim the first of the four remaining wins they need to secure the title. Victory would re-establish a 16-point lead at the top of the table with eight games left, although City are not in league action again until facing Everton on March 31.

Ukrainian youngster Oleksandr Zinchenko, who has filled in for Mendy and Fabian Delph this season, says City are keen to bounce back from the home defeat by Basel, even if that Champions League second-leg loss was of little consequence.

He said: “We did a lot of simple mistakes, especially passes. At 4-0 (from the first leg) it was not the best game for us, but we didn’t have to play like that.

We need to make some analysis of that because we are still learning, we are not machines. We can play like that sometimes.

Stoke are anxious for points at the opposite end of the table. They were thrashed 7-2 when the sides met in October.

Silva returns for City after missing the Basel game for personal reasons and several rested stars are also likely to be back. Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling are hoping to prove their fitness after hamstring injuries.

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