struggling | 

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola challenges Riyad Mahrez to regain his best form

Manchester United's Luke Shaw, left, in action against Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez during Sunday's derby at the Etihad Stadium. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters© REUTERS

Mark CritchleyUK Independent

Pep Guardiola has challenged Riyad Mahrez to improve his physical condition and “come back to his best” after struggling to hold down a place in Manchester City’s starting line-up this season.

Mahrez has only made three starts for the Premier League champions, the most recent ending in a substitution before the hour mark in the win over Borussia Dortmund. The 31-year-old is yet to find the net this season despite being City’s top scorer last term, with Jack Grealish and Phil Foden preferred on the wings.

Mahrez was only handed a 16-minute cameo in Sunday’s 6-3 Manchester derby win. His last 90-minute run-out came against Bournemouth back in August.

When asked what he wants to see from the Algerian, Guardiola said: “He knows it. I know Riyad perfectly. We need him, he has to come back to his best and at his best Riyad in terms of personality, quality, ability, his love for this game how he enjoys to play and step by step he’s going to come back.”

Guardiola went on to suggest that Mahrez must improve his fitness before he is given an extended run in the team. Asked what the former Leicester City winger is missing, his manager added: “He has to come back in a better physical condition and after the best will come because as a player I cannot teach him anything because he is too good.”

Foden’s form on the right-hand side has been helping to keep Mahrez among the substitutes, but Guardiola agreed with Kevin De Bruyne that the City academy product’s future may lie in the middle.

De Bruyne suggested after Sunday’s derby that he sees Foden’s future in the centre of midfield and his manager concurred ahead of tonight’s Champions League clash with FC Copenhagen, though stressed there are aspects of his game that must improve.

“I agree with Kevin, Phil can play in five positions,” Guardiola said. “He can even play as a left-back, he played a few minutes there in a game at home and he played really, really well.

“In the middle you have to pay more attention in some aspects where he still has to grow for his natural unbelievable instinct to play football.

“In the middle you have to pay attention to everything surrounding you. I would say with the ball and especially without the ball Phil has to improve but it’s normal, it’s his age and his desire to learn he will do it no doubts.” (© Independent News Service)

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