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Guardiola backs Stones despite dumping Manchester City defender from the starting XI

Date Posted,December 25, 2016

Pep Guardiola insists he still believes in John Stones, despite axeing the England defender.

Guardiola has left Stones on the bench for Manchester City’s last two games following the debacle at Leicester.

Stones’ poor backpass led to Leicester’s fourth goal and shellshocked City conceded seven goals in two league matches with the £47.5million centre-half.

City have been more solid without him, leaking just one goal, but ­Guardiola says he still trusts the former Everton star.

“If I didn’t have confidence in him, he wouldn’t have played the games he’s played,” said the Blues coach.

Stones looks dejected after his pass back leads to Leicester City’s fourth goal (Photo: REUTERS)
The City defender’s display saw him dropped to the bench

“Of course, he must improve like Nicolas Otamendi must improve, like Aleksandar Kolarov must improve and like Vincent Kompany when he comes back. I know that people think if a player doesn’t play, it’s because the coach doesn’t trust him anymore. That is not the truth.

“Our job is never ­straightforward. It is unfair in the case of many, many players because they deserve to play, but I cannot find a solution for these kind of things.” Guardiola feels Stones is still learning at the age of 22 and adapting to the demands of playing virtually every game for City and England.

As well as Stones’ undoubted ability on the ball, Guardiola is impressed by his character and believes he will come back stronger.

Stones has been forced to watch the past two matches from the sidelines (Photo: Reuters)

“He’s young, he has to improve, but he’s open and he has a lot of personality,” said the Spaniard.

“When you play in the big teams, the character is there. All the big clubs buy huge players.

“All of them have quality, the difference is their personality, how they react in the bad moments.

“John is a big player, I don’t have doubts about that. But it’s the first time in his career he’s played every three days. It had never happened before with the Champions League and the League Cup, and every three days you have to be focussed. He has played a lot. He must train every day, be fit and when I decide to play him, he’s going to play again.”

Pep Guardiola has backed Stones to recover from his blip (Photo: REUTERS)

Guardiola is so confident in Stones that he has ruled out a January move for Southampton’s Dutch centre-half Virgil van Dijk.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss is constantly reviewing his squad, but does not expect to sign anyone next month.

“He’s not going to come here next month because it’s impossible,” he said. “Because he’s a Southampton player and we don’t want him now.”

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