Even when their relationship seemed to be at its most irreparable of points, one simple fact remained ever true: Yaya Toure was far and away the best midfielder on the books at Manchester City, even if he was singlehandedly turning Pep Guardiola‘s first few months in the Premier League into an uphill battle.
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Fast forward to Boxing Day, and Ilkay Gundogan (torn ACL) is out for the season; Fenando and Fernandinho have been largely ineffective; and Toure is not only back in the team, but arguably the most important piece of Guardiola’s puzzle, as the glue holding a shoddy midfield together. Guardiola, for one, is thrilled with the mending of relationship, and what Toure has brought to the team since his return — quotes from Goal.com and the BBC:
“He’s a huge personality, and he always plays with good intelligence. Congratulations because you did well in giving man of the match to Yaya. We are so happy that he’s come back, he was always a part of us, but now he’s back playing.”
“In the first half we forgot where the goal was, in the second half, our strikers saw the goal a bit more and after the first goal it was easy. There is always pressure for us because the top of the league is tough and the other teams at the top had won today. Every game we play is like a final.”
As for John Stones, who was forced off with a knee injury in the 18th minute, Guardiola confirmed the 22-year-old center back had only suffered a knock, and with any luck will be available for the second-versus-third clash at Anfield on New Year’s Eve (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).