John Stones

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WATCH LIVE: Man City vs. Leicester City

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Riyad Mahrez is on the bench for Leicester City as the Foxes look to keep up their decent record against league leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Leicester starts Jamie Vardy and Fousseni Diabate in attack, while Man City keeps John Stones and Vincent Kompany on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Laporte, Otamendi, Zinchenko, Fernandinho (C), Gündogan, De Bruyne, Sterling, Bernardo, Agüero. Subs: Bravo, Danilo, Kompany, Stones, Nmecha, Foden, Diaz

Leicester City: Schmeichel (c), Dragović, Maguire, Fuchs, Albrighton, Silva, Ndidi, James, Chilwell, Diabaté, Vardy. Subs: Jakupović, Simpson, Benalouane, Iborra, Gray, Mahrez, Iheanacho.

PL preview: Man City vs. Leicester City

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  • Man City 13 points clear of everyone in title race
  • Leicester up to 8th after slow start, managerial change
  • Man City unbeaten at home; Leicester just 3 away wins

For the first time since August (not including international breaks), Manchester City are fresh off an entire week between games, and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time, as far as Leicester City, who visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com), are concerned.

After making serious headway in the Premier League (runaway leaders and champions-elect), Champions League (group winners, into the round of 16), FA Cup (into the fifth round) and League Cup (into the final), Pep Guardiola‘s side found itself in dire need of an extended (if you considered seven days a long time) break, as fatigued bodies and injuries to key players have piled up in recent weeks. Mercifully, defender John Stones and midfield maestro David Silva are expected to be available for selection come Saturday.

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Leicester’s recent struggles (loss to Everton, draw with Swansea City), following a particularly purple patch (just one defeat in 11 games from Sept. 30 to Dec. 13) during the middle third of the already-completed portion of the season, was in many ways spurred by Man City, who, whether intentionally or not, unsettle the Foxes’ star attacker, Riyad Mahrez, with a transfer deadline day approach which proved to be unsuccessful. Mahrez then refused to report for training or make himself available for selection the following week, before returning on Friday. He will not feature for the Foxes on Saturday.

Kelechi Iheanacho, who made a $33-million move from Man City to Leicester in the summer, is still seeking his first PL goal (he has five between the FA and League Cups) for his new club. The 21-year-old has featured more prominently in recent weeks (starts in three of Leicester’s last five games – all competitions), and might just continue to do so in the absence of Shinji Okazaki (knee), who’s frequently deployed as a forward/midfielder tweener just behind Jamie Vardy.

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Leroy Sane (ankle), Fabian Delph (knee), Gabriel Jesus (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: David Silva (oblique); RETURNING: John Stones (knee) | Leicester — OUT: Riyad Mahrez (personal), Shinji Okazaki (knee), Wes Morgan (hamstring)

What they’re saying…

Pep Guardiola, on City’s busy season: “We have had a lot of games since August, with just one midweek off, so we needed it. We made three good training sessions and then we come back. We love to play football but when you play every three days in three or four competitions, sometimes a break is good for everybody because you come back stronger. Everybody (had a rest). The physios, chef…everybody.”

Claude Puel, on Mahrez: “I think Riyad is not available for Saturday’s game. I hope Riyad can get his head right and come back with us and work hard. The best way is for him to come back and enjoy his football. He is a magnificent player and he enjoys his football. He loves his teammates, and that’s important. He loves to touch the football but he needs to come back right.”

Prediction

Man City have won 12 straight PL games at home (18 across all competitions), outscoring opponents 44-8 during that time (55-11 including other competitions), a run which should leave Leicester with very little hope of earning anything at the Etihad. Man City 3-0 Leicester.

Man City named just six subs Saturday; Is furor warranted?

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Pep Guardiola has been hammered by some members of the media for naming six substitutes — one less than allowed — in Manchester City’s 1-1 draw with Burnley on Saturday.

[ MORE: 2 Robbies on Arsenal, Pogba ]

City had injuries or illness limited its senior players: David Silva, Leroy Sane, John Stones, Fabian Delph, Benjamin Mendy, and Gabriel Jesus.

Amongst the six subs were surnames like Adarabioyo, Zinchenko, and Diaz. Seldom used Danilo started (and scored).

Still, City had 71 percent possession against Burnley, out-shooting the Clarets 20-8 with a corner kick advantage of 13-3. They manufactured numerous chances including a mind-boggling Raheem Sterling miss, but dropped points when Johann Berg Gudmundsson scored late.

The unifying thread in the outcry was that Guardiola should’ve handed an opportunity to a youngster from within Man City rather than use lack of players a perceived excuse.

I’m of two minds on the matter. Of course it would’ve been nice for Guardiola to hand a kid an opportunity, but it’s also not for the media to demand when a player get his opportunity. Should just any body, or personality, be placed on the bench when only three subs can be used in the game? Not if they haven’t met the boss’ standards for inclusion.

On the other hand, or maybe it’s the same hand, using the “I don’t have enough players” when City is one of the clubs in the world to redefine fiscal power in soccer? It’s pretty tone deaf. The fact that Guardiola doesn’t care about that is his prerogative, and a part of what makes him great. That doesn’t make it much more digestible for anyone outside of possibly the City supporter base.

Financial flex: Man City sign Laporte for $80 million

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Let’s pretend, for a brief moment, that Manchester City’s current does indeed have a weakness — what would you, the layman to Pep Guardiola‘s genius, say that weakness is?

[ MORE: Tuesday’s transfer rumor roundupMonday | Sunday ]

You might contend that they are were a bit thin defensively, especially given captain Vincent Kompany‘s eternal struggle with injuries. You might even be have been right until.

Enter: Man City’s newest $80-million signing — 23-year-old center back Aymeric Laporte, from Athletic Bilbao. The 6-foot-3, yet-to-be-capped Frenchman was officially announced as the club’s first January signing on Tuesday.

All snark about City’s financial flexing aside, with four trophies still in play this season, a reliable third center back was sorely needed during the January window. Laporte should immediately compete with Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones for starter’s minutes.

[ MORE: Arsenal agree Aubameyang fee; Giroud, Batshuayi latest ]

Following their capture of Laporte, City have now signed four of the five most expensive defenders in the history of transfers: Laporte ($80 million), Benjamin Mendy ($70 million), Kyle Walker ($70 million), Stones ($68 million), Eliaquim Mangala ($65 million). Only Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool’s $100-million man, got away.

Laporte set to join Man City for $80 million

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Aymeric Laporte is heading to Manchester City.

On Monday Athletic Bilbao confirmed that the 23-year-old center back had triggered his own release clause of $80 million and was leaving the club. Club officials from Man City have been in Spain talking to the Bilbao academy product in recent days.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ] 

The defender posted a farewell message to Athletic’s fans via the official club channels and it is believed the deal will be announced by Man City very soon.

As is protocol in Spain’s La Liga, the release fee is paid by the player to the league which then releases him from his contract and free to sign for another club. So, basically, City have paid Laporte’s release fee.

Here’s more from Bilbao in a statement on their website.

“Today, 29th January 2018, the Liga Profesional de Fútbol (LPF) has certified to Athletic Club that the player Aymeric Laporte has met the requirements demanded in the applicable legislation for the valid unilateral resolution of the employment contract that bound him to our Club. Said certification indicates that the player has unilaterally shown his will to terminate the contractual relationship that bound him since 2009-2010 season and that the amount of compensation established in the contract has been deposited. Athletic Club would like to thank the player for his dedication during the time he has been with the club.”

No confirmation has arrived from City on the deal as of yet, but here’s what the French international defender has had to say.

Laporte will become the second most expensive defender in history behind Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk who arrived from Southampton at the start of the January window for a huge $100 million.

In fact City have now bought four of the six most expensive defenders in history with Laporte joining Kyle Walker, John Stones and Bennjamin Mendy in the top six.

The tough-tackling, speedy center back is composed on the ball and it seems like he will be a perfect long-term replacement for Vincent Kompany.

Center back is the one area where City have struggled in recent years as Kompany’s injuries have piled up, Stones has taken a while to develop and the likes of Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala have struggled at times, even though the former has stepped up this season and was recently handed a new deal.

Guardiola’s machine has a new defensive cog as one of the most sought after defenders in the world will shortly become a City player.