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Pep Guardiola says Aymeric Laporte remains ‘really important’ to Manchester City

Manchester City v Real Madrid – UEFA Champions League – Round of 16 – Second Leg – Etihad Stadium
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

Pep Guardiola has dismissed any concerns over the fitness of defender Aymeric Laporte.

The French centre-back has not featured in any of Manchester City’s last three games.

Considering the 26-year-old’s seniority and importance to City, that has prompted questions over whether there might be any issues with the player.

Ruben Dias has made a good impression since joining City in the summer

Ruben Dias has made a good impression since joining City in the summer (Martin Rickett/PA)

Yet Guardiola says it is a simple matter of managing resources amid an intense schedule and other players making the most of their opportunities.

The City manager said: “Aymeric continues to be really important for us, but right now I’m playing other guys. But in the future I’m pretty sure he’s going to play a lot of games.

“It’s just Ruben (Dias) right now, since he arrived, every training session, his professionalism, commitment and he’s not making any mistakes, and John (Stones) has played really good in the games he’s played, and Eric (Garcia) in the last game.

“All the players know that, having 19 or 20 players fit, they have to raise their standards and play in as high a level as possible to keep in the selection.”

Guardiola has attempted to clear up confusion over his approach to squad rotation amid an intense schedule.

Guardiola has said he does not rotate his squad for the sake of it but has continued to make regular changes.

He says this is as much from a desire to keep all players match-fit as it is to rest others.

He explained: “There is a misunderstanding about the word rotation. Rotation looks like (a player says) ‘I’m a big star and now I don’t play this game because I’m going to play the next game and it’s important’.

“This is a huge mistake for the players to have in their heads. Rotation is because I want everyone fit and ready when we need it, and the best way is playing games. It’s not because I’m just giving time (off) for other players.

“That’s the only way to get close to the biggest teams in Europe and the biggest team in the Premier League.”

City must again make do without Sergio Aguero this weekend

City must again make do without Sergio Aguero this weekend (Paul Ellis/PA)

City are close to having a fully-fit squad with Sergio Aguero the only player ruled out for Saturday’s visit of Fulham.

The Argentinian has missed the last two games due to knee discomfort and has had a troubled return to action since surgery in the summer.

Guardiola insists City are simply being cautious and there are no long-term concerns about the 32-year-old striker’s condition.

He said: “When he will be fit, he’ll be the same player. Of course age is age. He has to be fit and will need a bit more time than (Phil) Foden or Raheem (Sterling). The physicality is different.

Aguero has had a troubled return to action since knee surgery in the summer

Aguero has had a troubled return to action since knee surgery in the summer (Paul Childs/PA)

“I’m optimistic he will help us this season but for that there needs to be no pain in the knee. We are working on it. One or two weeks’ training in normal conditions and he will come back.

“His sense of goal is unique. That’s why he’s so important. I’m confident as he works a lot.

“He’s a lovely person. I have an incredible relationship with him, better than ever. I like him and I want him back as soon as possible – for him and for the team.”