Pep Guardiola has a plan to make sure his Manchester City players cope with playing twice in less than 48 hours in December: "Go home, open the fridge and get inside."

The reigning champions have been dealt a tricky hand over the festive period following fixture changes for live television coverage, with their trip to Wolves now starting at 19:45 local time on December 27.

They then welcome Sheffield United to the Etihad Stadium on December 29, that game kicking off at 18:00, before a home match against Everton on January 1, 2020.

Asked what he can do to combat such a quick turnaround between travelling to Molineux and hosting the Blades before the turn of the year, Guardiola replied: "Players to the fridge. I'm not joking.

"Go home, open the fridge and get inside for 48 hours. See you at the Etihad Stadium [on December 29].

"When I open the fridge to make an omelette, maybe I can talk with my players. But apart from that, no way.

"It happened in my first season here. I think we played on December 31 at Anfield and then at home against Burnley [on January 2]."

Before needing to be concerned about Christmas plans, however, Guardiola and his squad must focus on closing the gap to a red-hot Liverpool side in the coming weeks.

After missing out by a solitary point in a thrilling title race in 2018-19, Jurgen Klopp's Reds have started the new Premier League season with eight successive wins.

City, in contrast, have suffered defeats to Norwich City and Wolves to sit eight points off the pace in second. However, Guardiola understands there is still a long way to go, particularly with Aymeric Laporte set to bolster the squad with a return from a knee injury early in 2020.

"For 11 years, no team in England has won back-to-back [titles]. It is difficult, of course it is," the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss told the media ahead of the trip to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

"But you have a rival that is unstoppable right now. Eight games, eight wins. We lost games, but in Spain the big clubs lost games, in Italy the big clubs lost games, here we are facing one team who are champions of Europe and didn't lose one game.

"It's difficult. In some games we could win but we didn't win. Our mistakes punished us a lot. During the season there are ups and downs. We try to get better and improve.

"From tomorrow [Saturday] and in the Champions League, we try to make an incredible step forward, to win the game against Atalanta [on Tuesday], then in February Laporte will be back, most of the players will be back.

"We will see what happens in the later stages. Normally, when you win what we have won the last two seasons and you arrive in March and April being there, after that it's more difficult to drop points. But, in the earliest stages of the season, sometimes it's normal."

Manchester City's title defence has not started according to plan, with the champions already trailing Liverpool by eight points.

Jurgen Klopp's side have won eight from eight in the Premier League, while City headed into the international break on the back of a surprise home defeat to Wolves.

For Pep Guardiola, City's defence has to be a huge concern, even though the former Barcelona boss has insisted the club will not be looking to replace the injured Aymeric Laporte in January.

Laporte is set to miss the majority of the season after sustaining an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury in August, while Vincent Kompany has left a sizeable void in City's defence.

Nicolas Otamendi has been largely unconvincing, while John Stones has his own injury problems and Fernandinho – arguably the Premier League's best defensive midfielder – has had to fill in at the back.

Ahead of Saturday's trip to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace, we use Opta data to assess how Guardiola can patch up City's struggling defence.

 

RELIANCE ON OTAMENDI A CAUSE FOR CONCERN

Guardiola has not been helped by a spate of bad luck with injuries, especially with Laporte, who has been mightily impressive since his arrival from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018.

Stones, meanwhile, has been in and out of the side due to both injuries and form, with Kompany preferred for the run-in last season. Otamendi looked set to join Kompany in leaving the club in the off season, though has been a mainstay of City's back line, making seven league appearances and two more in the Champions League. 

The Argentine does boast a passing accuracy of 92.52 per cent, which is higher than Fernandinho or Laporte, while he has also lost possession 148 times fewer than the Frenchman.

While Otamendi has only featured in 25 Premier League matches since the start of last season, he does have a higher tackle, duel and aerial duel success rate than Laporte and only conceded 16 fouls.

However, the former Valencia man showed clear weaknesses in the defeat to Wolves, recklessly lunging in on Raul Jimenez in the build-up to the opener, while it was his mistake at Carrow Road which led to Norwich City's third goal in a 3-2 win for the Canaries.

Of the players who have played at the back for City since the start of 2018-19, only Otamendi (2) has made errors which directly resulted in a goal.

KOMPANY'S IMPACT UNDERESTIMATED?

City reportedly moved for Harry Maguire in the off season, only to baulk at Leicester City's asking price, which was eventually paid by cross-city rivals Manchester United.

However, the decision not to replace inspirational former captain Kompany, who scored a stunning goal against Leicester as he led City to the title last term, seemed a risky one.

City did not lose a single game in all competitions last season in which Kompany started, with the Belgian having been named in 13 Premier League line ups.

Kompany played 1,223 minutes in the top flight last term, making no errors resulting in a shot at goal, while managing an impressive pass accuracy of 93.07% behind only Stones in terms of City's defenders.

The 33-year-old lost possession 93 times, though, perhaps due to a lack of pace, did concede 17 fouls – more than Otamendi or Stones despite playing fewer games.

He was dribbled past by an opponent on only one occasion and, from the 18 matches he started in all competitions last season, City claimed 17 wins, conceding just 12 goals.

SETTLE ON STONES UNTIL JANUARY

The simple answer to City's problems is likely to get Laporte back fit and firing as soon as possible, given they have an 82 per cent win percentage with the 25-year-old starting in the Premier League since the start of last season, compared to 75% without.

However, for now Guardiola must find a defensive pairing he can stick with until January. Fernandinho and Otamendi have featured in the last three league matches, but against Wolves their lack of pace was exposed.

Stones should soon return to action and, though the England international's form has been criticised, his statistics make for promising reading.

The former Everton man has a tackle success rate of 75%, higher than any of City's other centre-backs, and has conceded just six fouls since the start of 2018-19.

If Stones can stay fit, he should be City's first-choice centre-back until the new year, with Otamendi and Fernandinho vying for the other spot.

Ilkay Gundogan welcomed the return to fitness of Benjamin Mendy as "a big boost" for Manchester City at a time when the club are without two key defenders.

Aymeric Laporte and John Stones missed City's 3-0 Champions League Group C victory over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday with injuries and Pep Guardiola moved Fernandinho into central defence alongside Nicolas Otamendi.

Mendy came on as a second-half substitute to make his first appearance since City's Champions League quarter-final elimination to Tottenham in April and Gundogan highlighted the importance of his return.

"It was great to see Benjamin back and it is a big boost for us," Gundogan told the club's official website.

"Having him available again will be great for the team because we have missed him for the past five months and it's also good for him.

"His fitness will improve as he gets some more game time and last night was an important step forward for him.

"We have lost a number of players recently, so having an important member of the squad return is just what we needed.

"We are competing in so many competitions and every player has a part to play so I'm really happy to see him return."

Gundogan made his fourth start of the season against Shakhtar and put in an impressive performance as he played the full 90 minutes of the win.

After playing a role in Riyad Mahrez opening the scoring, Gundogan got City's second and spent the game pulling the strings alongside Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri in midfield.

He gave a modest assessment of his own performance while looking ahead to City's clash with Watford on Saturday, when they will hope to bounce back from a 3-2 defeat at Norwich City in their last Premier League outing.

"I'm happy but I know I can still improve," said Gundogan. "It was good to get a goal and also play the full 90 minutes because I think I needed that.

"It helps me, it helps the team and it helps everyone because we wanted to respond quickly.

"As you can imagine, the defeat at Norwich was very hard to take for us, that's why beating Shakhtar was even more important and we can take this win into Saturday's game against Watford which is already very close."

Aymeric Laporte's long-term knee injury has hurt Manchester City, Pep Guardiola has conceded, but he does not expect the club to sign a replacement in January.

Guardiola confirmed on Friday that Laporte would be out for up to six months after he damaged cartilage and the lateral meniscus in his right knee during City's 4-0 win against Brighton and Hove Albion on August 31.

The centre-back, who received a long-awaited France call-up prior to his injury, has undergone surgery but like team-mate Leroy Sane is now set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

John Stones – who has not featured since the opening fixture – and Nicolas Otamendi are now City's only fit senior centre-backs, with midfielder Fernandinho seemingly set to provide a third option.

But despite City's lack of depth at the heart of their defence, Guardiola does not foresee the club pursuing a January signing.

"It is hard, the same as Leroy. We are disappointed for him, for both of them," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of Saturday's game against Norwich City.

"Leroy is important. Aymeric in that position is important too, for his left foot and his personality. Unfortunately he is injured. So we're going to live without him for a long time and we have enough resources to move forward and see what we can do.

"My advice to you is not to write too many names about the winter transfer window, because you are going to make a mistake. I don't think it's going to happen.

"I heard already we are interested in this player or the other player. I would like to say to all the clubs in the world don't be nervous, because we are not interested in any players or central defenders in Europe.

"We are going to wait with the players we have, with the two central defenders, with Fernandinho, with Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis, even some players in different positions we can use there. We're going to move forward."

Stones was not in England's latest squad as he continued his comeback from a thigh strain, while the 25-year-old was sidelined as Vincent Kompany was preferred as Laporte's partner in last term's run-in.

Guardiola, though, has no doubt in Stones' ability to fill the void left by Laporte.

"He's going to play incredible this period, while Laporte is not with us. He is going to play well. I don't have any doubts about his quality," Guardiola added of Stones.

"The same case with Otamendi. I don't know how many games they play together but I think a lot. Before Aymeric came they were a partnership and they played many games."

Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte will miss up to six months after undergoing surgery on his knee, manager Pep Guardiola has said.

The France centre-back damaged cartilage and the lateral meniscus in his right knee during City's 4-0 win against Brighton and Hove Albion on August 31 and had an operation four days later.

Guardiola on Friday confirmed the extent of Laporte's injury for the first time, with the 25-year-old not expected to play again in 2019.

Asked how long Laporte will be out, Guardiola told reporters at a news conference: "Long time. Five months, six months. Next year, sure."

Laporte's long-term lay-off leaves Guardiola short of options at the back, but John Stones is back in contention after recovering from a thigh problem that has kept him on the sidelines for the past five weeks.

The transfer window may be closed but the rumours do not stop!

Christian Eriksen was unable to secure a move away from Tottenham prior to Monday's deadline.

Since then, the likes of Atletico Madrid, Manchester United and Inter have been linked to the Spurs star.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETICO PREPARING JANUARY MOVE FOR ERIKSEN

Atletico Madrid are set to return for Tottenham's Christian Eriksen in January, according to AS.

Eriksen was linked to the likes of Atletico, Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United but a move did not materialise.

Now, Atletico, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly monitoring the situation as Eriksen prepares to become a free agent at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to the Mirror, Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic is set to be offered a chance to move to the Premier League. The Croatian veteran was linked to Manchester United but a move failed to transpire prior to the transfer window closing.

- LaLiga pair Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao are keeping tabs on Chelsea and Spain full-back Cesar Azpilicueta, reports the Mirror. It comes amid concerns the Spaniard could lose his spot in the Chelsea XI to Reece James.

- Brazilian side Flamengo are interested in signing free agent Claudio Marchisio, says Gazzetta dello Sport. Former Juventus star Marchisio is without a club since leaving Zenit. Flamengo were also close to luring Mario Balotelli before he opted for Brescia.

- The Daily Mail claims Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola wants to sign a new defender in January. The report comes after Aymeric Laporte's knee injury left City with just two fit centre-backs – John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi.

- David Beckham's Inter Miami are set to sign River Plate midfielder Exequiel Palacios, according to TNT Sports. The expansion franchise – who are backed by the former Manchester United star and will enter MLS in 2020 – have also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani and Barcelona forward Luis Suarez.

Aymeric Laporte has undergone surgery after damaging cartilage and the lateral meniscus in his right knee, Manchester City have confirmed.

Laporte sustained the injury during Saturday's 4-0 Premier League win at home to Brighton and Hove Albion.

The defender, who received a long-awaited call-up to the France squad this week, was booked for the challenge on Adam Webster in which he was hurt.

A significant spell on the sidelines will follow for Laporte, a mainstay in the City side that completed a domestic clean sweep last season, although Pep Guardiola will likely be buoyed by the news a man he described as the best left-sided defender in Europe has avoided anterior cruciate ligament damage.

City winger Leroy Sane is out following ACL surgery, while Ilkay Gundogan and Benjamin Mendy have also sustained the same major injury during Guardiola's tenure.

A timeframe is yet to be placed on Laporte's recovery and City said in a statement: "The surgery, carried out by Dr Ramon Cugat in Barcelona, was successful and a more detailed prognosis will be provided in due course."

Pep Guardiola feels Fernandinho and Kyle Walker are both capable of filling in for injured Manchester City centre-back Aymeric Laporte.

The defender, who earned a long-awaited call-up by France this week, was taken off on a stretcher during Saturday's 4-0 Premier League win at home to Brighton and Hove Albion.

Laporte was described by Guardiola in the build-up to the game as the best left-sided defender in Europe but it is feared a right knee injury could rule him out for an extended period, with the 25-year-old joining Leroy Sane in the treatment room.

His absence left City temporarily with one fit senior centre-back, Nicolas Otamendi, although Guardiola confirmed John Stones should be available to face Norwich City after the international break, having recently suffered a hamstring strain.

City did not sign a central defender during the transfer window, instead bringing in Joao Cancelo from Juventus, with fellow right-back Danilo heading in the opposite direction.

They failed to replace departing captain Vincent Kompany and ended an interest in Harry Maguire before Stones and Walker's England team-mate joined rivals Manchester United for £80million.

"The club works incredibly well in all departments and sometimes we cannot afford it like other teams afford it and that is all," Guardiola told reporters.

"We pay a lot of money for a lot of players, that is why we have a depth of squad with huge quality but we cannot do... the club tell me, 'You have a limit, you cannot go forward'.

"'Maybe in the future but not now, you cannot do it.' I say, 'Okay, you cannot do it so we cannot do it, so we are going with what we have'.

"But we don't expect Leroy out for a long time and now Laporte, maybe, we wait but doesn’t look good, But it is what it is.

"During the season it happens and the other guys are going to make a step forward and one day we need to put Kyle Walker like a central defender, he is going to play central defender, so we are going to find solutions.

"I am sad for Leroy, I am sad for Laporte today, that is what I am concerned [about] - but we are going to move forward."

While Walker has played on the right of a back three for England, Fernandinho slotted into the heart of defence against Brighton and has filled the role for City on occasion.

Guardiola could also look to the club's academy, where there are high hopes for Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis -18 and 17 respectively and yet to make a Premier League appearance between them. 

"It happens because he is a nice guy, because he is open minded," Guardiola said of versatile Brazil midfielder Fernandinho. "Normally the players know, 'I am playing in that position, just that position, if not I don't play' and that is not the case [with Fernandinho].

"So he is a typical captain. He thinks for the group more than himself, but he is a guy who is incredibly respected in the locker room and by our staff. That is why he can do it.

"He needs some processes defensively, but he is intelligent and has a lot of experience and we will see.

"We will work – unfortunately now we cannot because it is the international break, but we are going to work on it and we need him in this position.

"Because right now we have John and Nico and Dinho and Eric Garcia, or Taylor Bellis - two young guys in the academy who are going to help us to do that."

Kevin De Bruyne accepts it will be a blow for Manchester City if Aymeric Laporte's knee injury is serious.

The defender was carried off on a stretcher during Saturday's 4-0 Premier League win at home to Brighton and Hove Albion after hurting his right knee in a challenge with Adam Webster.

Laporte was booked for the tackle to add insult to injury, with City boss Pep Guardiola saying after the game the centre-back "does not look good".

The 25-year-old has already been replaced in the France squad by Barcelona's Samuel Umtiti for upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Albania and Andorra having received a long-awaited call-up by Didier Deschamps this week.

Fernandinho filled in for City against Brighton but Guardiola's options are limited after no central defenders were signed following the departure of club captain Vincent Kompany at the end of 2018-19.

John Stones has been restricted to one league appearance although the England defender could return to club action following the international break.

City are already without Leroy Sane after the winger damaged his anterior cruciate ligament, and De Bruyne hopes Laporte is not set for a similarly lengthy lay-off – although he insists they must be ready to cope.

"It's always a shame when people get injured," said De Bruyne. "It's not nice for the team or for the person when you are away for long.

"We already have Leroy [unavailable] so if Aymeric is out for a couple of months it's a blow for us. But on the other hand, we have to deal with it.

"We lost Vinnie already but it gives possibilities to other people and hopefully John [Stones] will be back soon and hopefully we will be okay."

De Bruyne scored a second-minute opener for City against Brighton as the champions recorded their first home league win of the season.

The Belgium international, who only scored twice in the Premier League in an injury-hit 2018-19, never doubted he would be able to regain top form.

"Last year was last year," added the influential playmaker. "I've started the season really well and I feel okay and the team is doing good.

"We've just played four games and there's still 65 to go in all competitions. It's a hard season, we need everybody.

"I'm happy with the way I've come back, but that was never in doubt."

Pep Guardiola expects Aymeric Laporte to be out for a significant period, explaining the Manchester City defender's injury "does not look good".

Laporte left the field on a stretcher after suffering a knee problem 34 minutes into City's 4-0 home Premier League victory at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

The defender, who was called up to the France squad this week, appeared to sustain the injury when he collided with Adam Webster in a challenge for which he was booked.

After the match, Guardiola was waiting for news from the club doctor but suggested Laporte, 25, had been taken to hospital and was likely set for a long spell on the sidelines.

"I think he's gone to hospital," City boss Guardiola said of Laporte, who was replaced by Fernandinho. 

"It doesn't look good. I don't know right now what he has but we will know [Sunday]. They are diagnosing what he has right now and I'm waiting for the doctor to call me.

"He might be out for a while."

Laporte's injury leaves Nicolas Otamendi as the only fit senior centre-back on City's books, with John Stones not fully recovered from a thigh problem heading into the Champions League group stages.

Sergio Aguero scored twice but a suspected knee injury for Aymeric Laporte cast a shadow over Manchester City's comfortable 4-0 home win over Brighton and Hove Albion.

Laporte's celebrations of a long-awaited France call-up this week appear likely to be short-lived after he was taken off on a stretcher in the first half.

The 25-year-old went down in discomfort following a collision with Adam Webster, an incident that is sure to give Pep Guardiola several sleepless nights over the international break.

City were leading courtesy of Kevin De Bruyne's second-minute opener and Aguero added two more either side of the interval before teeing up Bernardo Silva to add the icing 17 seconds after his introduction.

The champions started in the manner expected of them as David Silva darted in behind and delivered a perfect cut-back for De Bruyne to apply a simple finish.

Provider should have turned goalscorer on the half-hour mark but David Silva poked across the face after Raheem Sterling wriggled free in the box.

A subdued atmosphere gave way to concern when centre-back Laporte was forced off after attempting a challenge that earned him a booking.

But striker Aguero lifted the mood in the 42nd minute, cushioning De Bruyne's pass and emphatically capping a classy team move.

Fernandinho had replaced Laporte in City's defence and positioned himself well to nod away Leandro Trossard's scuffed, close-range finish shortly after the restart.

Aguero offered no such mercy, brilliantly curling beyond an outstretched Mat Ryan to complete his brace in the 55th minute.

City moved back down the gears after wrapping up three points but there was time left for the two-goal Argentina star to add an assist to his impressive outing.

Aguero gathered Martin Montoya's poor header and spotted Bernardo Silva, who picked out the bottom-right corner to complete the scoring in the 79th minute.


What does it mean? Guardiola awaiting Laporte update 

City's decision to not sign a replacement for captain Vincent Kompany may be about to backfire.

Laporte's injury leaves Nicolas Otamendi as the only fit senior centre-back on the club's books, with John Stones not fully recovered from a thigh problem.

Heading into the Champions League group stage with Fernandinho partnering Otamendi is not a scenario Guardiola will readily accept.


De Bruyne dominant in the middle

City's midfield trio of Rodri, David Silva and De Bruyne overpowered their counterparts and laid the platform for a straightforward victory.

The latter was especially effective, De Bruyne continuing his fine early season form with a tidy finish and smart assist for Aguero's first.


Trossard squanders Brighton's best opportunity

Belgian winger Trossard looks a good acquisition for Brighton but his inability to convert a gilt-edged chance after the resumption was always going to prove costly.

What's next?

City's first assignment after the international break is a trip to Norwich City on September 14. Brighton entertain Burnley on the same day.

Aymeric Laporte had to be taken off on a stretcher with a suspected knee injury sustained in the first half of Manchester City's game against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

The centre-back went down in discomfort following a collision with Adam Webster and required treatment on his right knee before being carried from the pitch.

Laporte came off worse after stepping across his fellow centre-back's path around 10 minutes before the interval.

Insult was added to injury as referee Jonathan Moss showed Laporte a yellow card for impeding the marauding Webster's progress.

Pep Guardiola was forced to send Fernandinho into the heart of defence and he could have some sleepless nights over the international break as the Premier League champions await news on the extent of the damage.

Any time spent on the sidelines will be a cruel blow to Laporte, who won a long-awaited call-up to the France squad this week, while City are already without England centre-back John Stones after losing Vincent Kompany at the end of his contract.

City, who led Brighton 2-0 at the break, will hope Laporte is not out for a long period as their Champions League campaign commences away to Shakhtar Donetsk on September 18, four days after a Premier League trip to Norwich City.

Guardiola described Laporte as the best left-sided defender in Europe this week, telling reporters: "I'm incredibly grateful to [France coach] Didier Deschamps and so happy for [Laporte] because he deserves it."

 

Pep Guardiola expressed gratitude to Didier Deschamps for picking the "best left-sided central defender in Europe" after Aymeric Laporte finally received a France call-up.

Les Bleus boss Deschamps ended the uncapped Manchester City defender's lengthy exile by naming him in the squad to face Albania and Andorra in Euro 2020 qualifying.

The uncapped 25-year-old has had to be extremely patient for international opportunities despite his consistently excellent displays at the heart of City's defence.

Laporte's performances have forced Guardiola to revise his opinion of the former Athletic Bilbao player, a day after Liverpool counterpart Virgil van Dijk was crowned UEFA Men's Player of the Year.

"It was a mistake when I said he is one of the best – for me he is the best left-sided central defender in Europe," Guardiola said of Laporte, who last won a France call-up in 2017.

"I'm incredibly grateful to Didier Deschamps and so happy for [Laporte] because he deserves it.

"All of us were so happy for him because he was looking for this call for a long time and hopefully he can stay. Now it depends on him."

Kyle Walker was less fortunate on the international front, the England regular squeezed out of Gareth Southgate's latest squad due to a surplus of right-backs.

Guardiola admitted "a little bit" of surprise over the decision but backed the 29-year-old to regain his place.

"Of course, Kyle and myself are not involved. We respect the decision and I think Kyle will come back strong," he said.

"It's [Southgate's] decision, of course I understand him and support the manager of the national team."

Walker's good form at club level has earned him three Premier League starts and restricted new signing Joao Cancelo to a brief cameo in the win over Bournemouth.

"With Joao, we are delighted with what we have seen," the City boss said.

"But he arrived late so was not in pre-season. There are many things Kyle knows completely well.

"Joao is starting to understand what to do and maybe [against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday] or maybe after the international break he will start to play."

Guardiola confirmed injured pair John Stones and Gabriel Jesus are "much better" but doubted whether they would be available for the match at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte has won a long-awaited international call-up for France's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Albania and Andorra.

Laporte, who cost City £57million 19 months ago, has the unwanted distinction of being the most expensive uncapped player of all-time after being persistently overlooked by Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps.

Five domestic trophies won at City had not been enough to persuade Deschamps until now, with the former Athletic Bilbao centre-back in for next month's internationals as Barcelona's Samuel Umtiti misses out.

Laporte is one of 10 players included to have played no part in France's 2018 World Cup triumph, alongside Lille forward Jonathan Ikone, who wins a maiden call-up amid the injury absences of Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele.

Tottenham's record signing Tanguy Ndombele similarly sits out amid fitness concerns, with N'Golo Kante also not considered following his recent return to action for Chelsea. Galatasaray's Steven Nzonzi comes in as the beneficiary.

The world champions are top of Group H on goal difference, locked together on nine points with Iceland and Turkey following a 2-0 defeat away to the latter in June.

Aymeric Laporte and several of his Manchester City team-mates have expressed frustration over Gabriel Jesus seeing a late strike against Tottenham disallowed by VAR.

City and Spurs were drawing 2-2 at Etihad Stadium on Saturday when Jesus struck in added time, firing into the bottom-right corner from inside the box.

But celebrations were cut short by VAR with replays showing the ball hit Laporte on the arm during the build-up - and the goal was duly disallowed.

A frustrated Pep Guardiola told Sky Sports "they need to fix" VAR, City having seen video replay decisions go against them in a game with Spurs for the second time this year following April's Champions League drama, when Raheem Sterling had a goal disallowed for offside.

And Guardiola's players steadily followed suit on social media following the game, led by Laporte.

"Tough game! Learning to get used to external factors! Keep working!" the centre-back posted on Twitter.

Jesus was visibly upset by the call, despite referee Michael Oliver attempting to calm him down on the field.

"Great game, lads. Well played, but unfortunately we didn’t get the win," the Brazil striker said. "We scored the goal we needed, but....."

Kyle Walker was at fault for the second Spurs goal, losing Lucas Moura in the City box, but he also pointed a finger of blame at the technology.

"Vary frustrating today. But both teams fought well," he said on Twitter, with a deliberate typo. "Well done to Spurs. Always good to see the boys and fans."

Ilkay Gundogan, meanwhile, agrees with Guardiola's suggestion that rules involving VAR need to be amended for the good of the game.

"Today's VAR decision is really hard to take," the midfielder wrote on social media.

"Any attacker that commits handball, intentional or not, is now ruled a free-kick?? And if you’re defending it’s fine?? It only disadvantages the attacking team.

"In my opinion, this rule needs to be changed."

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