Manchester: Pep Guardiola has backed 34-year-old Fernandinho’s ability to cope with a heavy workload as he juggles his stretched defensive resources for Tuesday’s home Champions League match against Dinamo Zagreb.
Manchester City are missing the injured John Stones and Aymeric Laporte and the manager was forced to field Saturday the makeshift pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and midfielder Fernandinho in central defence against Everton.
The Premier League champions had some shaky moments defensively at Goodison Park but emerged 3-1 winners to keep the gap to Liverpool at five points.
Pep Guardiola said Fernandinho had the durability to fill in at centre-half despite his age. “If he feels fit he can play (twice a week),” Guardiola said Monday. “It depends on him in terms of physical regeneration after the games. Last season he (Fernandinho) started to struggle a little bit, the last part of the season, but the previous season he played every three days. He was one of the players with most minutes,” Guardiola added.
Guardiola also praised 31-year-old Otamendi as a ‘huge competitor’. He asserted that Otamendi could also play regularly despite slipping down the pecking order last season.
Guardiola also had warm words for Riyad Mahrez, who impressed in the 3-1 win against Everton and has been directly involved in 17 goals in his past 17 starts for Manchester City in all competitions.
“He’s (Riyad Mahrez) been so decisive, clinical. Defensively his commitment is higher than last season and offensively every time… you have this feeling he is going to create something,” said the Man City boss. Hopefully he can maintain that level for a long time,” stated Guardiola.