Benjamin Mendy wants Manchester City to benefit from "the real Mendy" between now and the end of the season.

The France left-back moved to the Etihad Stadium from Monaco for £52million in 2017 but his first two campaigns in the Premier League were decimated by bouts of knee surgery.

It has proved a long road back to form and fitness for the 25-year-old, who has only been able to show flashes of the dynamic qualities that saw him establish himself as one of the most exciting attacking full-backs in Europe as Monaco stormed to the 2016-17 Ligue 1 title.

An assured performance as City resumed their Premier League campaign with a 3-0 win over Arsenal last week won praise from Pep Guardiola and, with Chelsea up next at Stamford Bridge, Mendy is confident he can scale his previous heights.

"This is my time," he said. "The way Manchester City, the staff, the players were behind me, helped me, pushed me, I want to give them the real Mendy back.

"Inside, I know the way I work. It was hard when I was in the hospital, the recovery; this is the life. People don't see all of that. It is not easy.

"Even in the first game you are back you are expected to be at the top because people watch the game for that.

"They don't have time to say he was injured. They want a good performance and I understand that and it gives me more motivation to work hard. I think now I am in one my best periods at Manchester City."

The enforced lay-off from competitive action due to the coronavirus pandemic is one Mendy feels he used wisely.

"During the lockdown I was training all the time. We do our training with Manchester City but I was doing more," he explained.

"I know I need to work all the time because my knee needs to be good all of the time."

Such dedication is unlikely to go unnoticed by Guardiola, who questioned Mendy's focus at the start of last season, when he reported late for training the night after watching the heavyweight title bout between Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium.

The defender is keen to repay Guardiola's faith and, with the FA Cup and Champions League still up for grabs, put his stamp on a City trophy triumph he can truly feel a part of.

"When Pep says he missed me I am always happy. It is something very good and it touched me," Mendy added.

"I want to show him, I think he knows, but I want to show Manchester City and the world.

"First Manchester City, because it is my team and I love this team and give everything for them because they deserve that for what they did for me for two years, while winning the cups and titles.

"I played a few games, but honestly, you win and I don't feel the same. I am happy, but I don't feel the same. I want to fight and say I helped my team win this trophy."

After upwards of a year of speculation, Pep Guardiola has confirmed Leroy Sane will leave Manchester City.

The Germany winger is widely expected to join Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich after rejecting a new contract at the Etihad Stadium.

His existing terms expire in June 2021, although the likelihood is City will begin the 2020-21 campaign without Sane in their ranks.

A solution in the transfer market might not be easily found, considering the two-season Champions League ban City have appealed against at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the expected wider economic ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here, we look at some of the players in Guardiola's squad who – for better or worse – might be impacted by Sane's departure.

RAHEEM STERLING

If Sane had bought into Guardiola's demands of a wide forward and maximised his talent to the extent England star Sterling has, this is probably not a conversation we would be having. While the City boss increasingly appeared not to trust Sane's contribution during last season's treble run-in, Sterling was and remains absolutely integral to his plans.

However, being almost exclusively played on the left during Sane's injury absence this season has seemed to take a toll upon the 25-year-old, whose preference for cutting in on his right foot had started to become predictable and easier to defend. Sane's presence allowed him to switch flanks and ask varied questions of defences. If his departure means Sterling being restricted to left-wing duties, City might struggle to fully realise the ample talents of their most potent attacking threat.

GABRIEL JESUS

Life as understudy to the club's all-time record goalscorer Sergio Aguero appears to weigh heavily upon Jesus at times, while playing an entire World Cup as Brazil's number nine without scoring – as he did at Russia 2018 – knocked his confidence considerably.

The 23-year-old rehabilitated his standing with the Selecao in a wide-right role during last season's Copa America triumph, while he put in arguably his finest City performance on the left flank when he opened the scoring in February's 2-1 Champions League win at Real Madrid. A selfless performer, Aguero and Sterling would have few complaints were Jesus to fill that position on a more frequent basis.

PHIL FODEN

Of the pending exits at Manchester City, David Silva's departure at the end of this season is viewed as the most significant for presumed heir Foden. However, Guardiola has deployed the England Under-21 playmaker on the left of a front three this season, most notably when he was thrust into the EFL Cup final against Aston Villa and turned in an irresistible man-of-the-match display.

Foden came off the bench against Arsenal to score for the 11th time in 63 senior appearances, once again showing a keen eye for goal. He averages 2.5 chances created per 90 minutes in the Premier League.

BENJAMIN MENDY

When Sane leaves, City will badly lack for natural width down the left side. One man who provides that if fit and firing is left-back Mendy, although his travails following two bouts of knee surgery since moving to Manchester in 2017 mean that "if" is doing an awful lot of work.

Guardiola has always been reluctant to pair Mendy and Sane, seemingly because both men like to operate in similar zones of the pitch. Without the latter, Mendy would be free to rove and Jesus could thrive as a tucked-in forward inside him. The big question, however, is whether the force-of-nature attacking threat City signed from Monaco can ever truly return after what his body has been through.

RIYAD MAHREZ

City's record signing when he joined in 2018, Mahrez has not been able to hit the heights he did at Leicester, where his mercurial skills secured the PFA Player of the Year award amid the most unlikely Premier League title triumph in 2015-16.

More often than not at City, the Algeria star has looked a rung or two below Sterling and Sane in terms of elite quality. Mahrez's 30 Premier League starts have yielded 14 goals and 12 assists in sky blue at a comparable per-90-minute rate to Sane. Maybe without him he can truly thrive?

JAYDEN BRAAF

The latest jewel of City's academy set-up, Braaf has already amassed a considerable personal following thanks to some moments of individual skill for the age-group teams that quickly went viral.

City would surely be loath for Braaf, who is reportedly admired by numerous clubs across Europe, to become the next Jadon Sancho and depart for superstardom elsewhere at a knockdown price. Sane's departure might just give the Diutch youngster a way in.

Benjamin Mendy says winning the Champions League is the dream of everyone at Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's side claimed a 2-1 win against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in February to take control of their last-16 tie.

City have won eight of the past nine domestic trophies available, but they have failed to get beyond the semi-final stage in Europe's top competition, and they have not progressed past the quarter-finals since Guardiola took charge four years ago.

Mendy says the squad are desperate to become champions of Europe but remains cautious ahead of the second leg with Madrid, with UEFA said to be hopeful of completing this season's competition despite the coronavirus crisis.

"We had a good game in Madrid and now we still have to play the second leg," the left-back told club media. "I know that, in the minds of every player, they know that just because we won there [it] does not mean that it is finished or that we are qualified.

"It is not every day that you go to somewhere like the Bernabeu and perform like that in the Champions League. We have an opportunity to go far in this cup and we want it, so everybody wakes up, works out, stays focused on the target for when they say we can come back.

"We don't have the Champions League yet, so it is the dream."

Mendy is more immediately concerned with the return of the Premier League, which was suspended in March but could resume after June 1.

"I can't wait," he said. "We are just waiting for the green light.

"Everywhere, we see we are going to start on this date and that date. Now, I wait for the guys to text us to tell us the league is going to start at this time, and we are going to be so happy.

"But I know they are going to take all the precautions when we are back. It's not like they are just going to say 'let's go play'; they are going to check everything, and I think that's why it takes time."

Mendy has been spending time in lockdown not just trying to keep up his fitness, but also master some new skills, including cooking and painting.

"The quarantine has not been easy. It is very difficult for everyone," he said. "I think to stay at home, not move, only go to the shop to buy food, that has been very difficult for everyone. Now it is getting better, but we need to be careful and to follow the rules.

"I tried to keep busy. First of all, I was just working out and training, but then I wanted to learn some new stuff as well, so I started painting and I like it now.

"Some of my family bought me some stuff to make cooking easier, it helps to learn, and it has been nice. I try to keep busy and do some new stuff. I hope everyone is good and all the families are safe. I know that this is a difficult moment, but it is going to be better."

The resumption of football in Europe's top five leagues still appears some way off due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving players with plenty of time to analyse their performances this season.

Using Opta data, we have already examined some of the worst attacking and passing numbers from 2019-20, so now it's the turn of the defence.

We have analysed nine metrics for defenders to have featured in at least 10 league games this season, thereby giving us a good summary of those whose defending could use some improvement.

The metrics include success rates in duels, tackling and aerial challenges, errors leading to shots and goals and how many times a player has been dribbled past by an opponent.

As always when it comes to data, context is key. For success rates in duels, tackling and aerial challenges we have only included players who have completed 20 actions in each category, which accounts to two per game.

The below therefore provides a good indication on where improvement is needed, and there are a few surprising names…

 

THE WORST DEFENDING STATS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most tackles lost: William (29)
Worst tackle success: Alexander Hack (40.91 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Robin Koch (3)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Robin Koch (3)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: William (32)
Most duels lost: Stefan Lainer (125)
Worst duel success: Julian Ryerson (35 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Robin Koch and Sven Bender (56)
Worst aerial success: Christian Gunter (22.86 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most tackles lost: Pervis Estupinan (34)
Worst tackle success: Nacho Monreal (40 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Joseph Aidoo and Sergio Ramos (2)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Pervis Estupinan (5)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Marc Cucurella (35)
Most duels lost: Marc Cucurella (167)
Worst duel success: Daniel Carrico (40.3 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Didac Vila (55)
Worst aerial success: Xavi Quintilla (25.71 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most tackles lost: Boubacar Kamara (33)
Worst tackle success: Lionel Carole (34.78 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Sofiane Alakouch, Timothee Kolodziejczak and Stefan Mitrovic (2)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Wesley Fofana, Alexander Djiku and Malang Sarr (4)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Arturo Calabresi (42)
Most duels lost: Issiaga Sylla (161)
Worst duel success: Colin Dagba (40 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Pablo Martinez (59)
Worst aerial success: Hamza Mendyl (17.39 per cent)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most tackles lost: Ricardo Pereira (50)
Worst tackle success: Calum Chambers (38.46 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Jan Bednarek (3)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Jan Bednarek, Tyrone Mings, John Egan, Davinson Sanchez and James Tarkowski (4)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Ricardo Pereira (53)
Most duels lost: Ricardo Pereira (215)
Worst duel success: Benjamin Mendy (37.38 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Ben Mee (84)
Worst aerial success: Max Aarons (26.09 per cent)

SERIE A:

Most tackles lost: Matteo Darmian (32)
Worst tackle success: Andrea Cistana (40 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Jhon Chancellor, Fabio Lucioni, Jose Luis Palomino, Alex Sandro (2)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Fabio Lucioni (5)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Stefano Sabelli (40)
Most duels lost: Giovanni Di Lorenzo (126)
Worst duel success: Hans Hateboer (40.63 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Mattia Bani (57)
Worst aerial success: Jeremy Toljan (28.00 per cent)

AND THE TOP NINE:

Most tackles lost: Ricardo Pereira (50)
Worst tackle success: Lionel Carole (34.78 per cent)
Most errors leading to goals: Robin Koch and Jan Bednarek (3)
Most errors leading to shots (including goals): Pervis Estupinan and Fabio Lucioni (5)
Most dribbled past by an opponent: Ricardo Pereira (53)
Most duels lost: Ricardo Pereira (215)
Worst duel success: Julian Ryerson (35 per cent)
Most aerials lost: Ben Mee (84)
Worst aerial success: Hamza Mendyl (17.39 per cent)

The coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the sporting calendar on Saturday with more major events and competitions being disrupted.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 rapidly spreading across the globe, it has resulted in the postponement of competitions worldwide as governments attempt to combat the pandemic.

A small number of events still went ahead, but sports stars, teams and indeed supporters were otherwise left to find other means of entertainment.

With the number of confirmed cases worldwide now totalling over 155,000, we round up all the latest news and updates.

 

Germany's prestige friendly with Italy later this month became the latest football fixture to bite the dust, with the majority of upcoming international matches having now been wiped out.

More major organisations have halted all footballing activities until a later date, including Qatar, Morocco and Egypt.

A small number of competitions, most notably the A-League, Russian Premier League and Mexico's Liga MX, did manage to go ahead as planned.

Indeed, NRL games also avoided the cut, as did a handful of Super Rugby matches before an indefinite ban was put in place later in the day.

Another competition to fall was Australia's one-day international series against New Zealand, which was already being played behind closed doors.

With New Zealand's government introducing strict protocols to attempt to slow the spread of the virus, the Black Caps – along with Super Rugby side Highlanders – returned home from Australia and Argentina respectively in order to beat the new restrictions, which will mean any new arrival to the country, even if they are a citizen, has to self-isolate for 14 days.

With the top-four tiers of English football being shelved until at least early April, there was plenty of focus on the National League as six games were given the green light.

There was some controversy in Argentina as River Plate's Copa Superliga clash with Atletico Tucuman was suspended after the home side refused to open their stadium.

Independiente's tie with Velez Sarsfield was played out in full, albeit behind closed doors, with the hosts claiming a 1-0 victory.

In Italy, Napoli urged their supporters to sing from their balconies in unison as Fiorentina's Patrick Cutrone and two more Sampdoria players tested positive for COVID-19.

Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy revealed a negative test result after recently self-isolating, but Carlo Ancelotti and Angelo Ogbonna questioned the Premier League's handling of the outbreak, while Jordan Pickford denied reports he is self-isolating.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady, meanwhile, claimed the competition should be "void" – a suggestion Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher quickly dismissed.

The lack of football did not stop certain clubs from keeping supporters entertained, though, with LaLiga side Leganes posting live updates of a fictitious match against Real Valladolid, which they won 2-1.

Perhaps inspired by their Spanish counterparts, Southampton got Manchester City involved in an online game of noughts and crosses to help fill the void.

The downtime also gave football stars a chance to recuperate, with Sergio Ramos and Alexis Sanchez among those to post images of their extra-curricular activities.

Others, such as Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and FIFA president Gianni Infantino, opted to use social media to educate their followers on how to properly wash their hands, while Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi used his profile to echo the sentiments of Cristiano Ronaldo in calling for people to follow the guidance of health organisations.

As Ronaldo and Jurgen Klopp were praised by the World Health Organisation for "protecting people from coronavirus", former United States president Barack Obama hailed a host of NBA stars – including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson – for donating large amounts to help support arena staff during the league's hiatus.

UFC superstar Conor McGregor labelled the pandemic "a stupid f****** virus", but later moved to clarify his aunt did not die after contracting the disease after previously suggesting as such.

And in more positive news, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe revealed his country still plan for the 2020 Olympic Games to go ahead in Tokyo, starting in late July.

The International Olympic Committee will have the final say, but ABE is confident the Games will be staged "without problem".

Manchester City left-back Benjamin Mendy has thanked fans for their support and confirmed "those around me" have tested negative for the coronavirus.

Mendy was widely reported to be the City player who self-isolated as a precaution earlier this week, after a member of their family fell ill and was tested for COVID-19.

In an Instagram post on Saturday that confirmed he had been placed in quarantine, the France international shared an update and urged his followers to heed instructions given by the World Health Organization (WHO), who are seeking to minimise the spread of a virus that has led to over 5,000 deaths around the world.

"First of all, I would like to thank you for your numerous messages of support following the news about my quarantine," wrote Mendy.

"Today, the results were negative for those around me, but it is important that everyone takes their responsibilities in this delicate period, to protect you but above all to protect the weakest in the face of the epidemic.

"I therefore invite you to follow the instructions given by the WHO in order to stop the spread of the virus as quickly as possible and to get back to normal."

It is not clear when City will return to competitive action, with the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Real Madrid having been postponed and the Premier League also suspended until at least April 3.

Premier League fixtures are to go ahead as planned, with no games played behind closed doors, despite fears over the spread of coronavirus.

Sporting events and competitions across the globe have been either postponed or cancelled altogether as governments and organisations attempt to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Thursday the British government would not yet be cancelling large-scale public events, though that is subject to change.

Following this announcement, the Premier League – now the only major European league not to either postpone entire rounds of fixtures or play matches behind closed doors – confirmed this weekend's round of fixtures would go ahead.

The Merseyside derby is among the latest round of games, with Liverpool just two wins away from clinching a first league title since 1990.

"Following the latest update from government issued this afternoon, all Premier League matches will go ahead as scheduled this weekend," a statement on the league's official website read.

"While the prime minister advised that all sporting events should take place as normal for now, he also indicated that government is considering banning major public events, like sporting fixtures.

"We are therefore continuing to work closely with our clubs, government, The FA, EFL and other relevant stakeholders to ensure appropriate contingency plans are in place as and when circumstances change. 

"The welfare of players, staff and supporters is of paramount importance and we will continue to follow Public Health England guidelines thoroughly."

Shortly after the statement was released, Arsenal confirmed head coach Mikel Arteta had tested positive for coronavirus.

Arsenal's London Colney training centre was closed, with Arteta the first confirmed case in the Premier League.

Meanwhile, an unnamed Manchester City player – reported to be Benjamin Mendy – is self-isolating after a member of their family fell ill and was tested.

Brendan Rodgers earlier confirmed three Leicester City players had also self-isolated after showing coronavirus symptoms.

The English Football League has also confirmed matches will continue to take place until it is advised otherwise.

A Manchester City player is self-isolating as a precaution after a member of their family fell ill and was tested for coronavirus.

The player in question was not named by the club, but according to multiple media reports it is first-team left-back Benjamin Mendy.

A club spokesperson said: "The club is aware that a family member of a senior men's team player is in hospital with symptoms of a respiratory illness.

"He has undergone tests at hospital, one of which is for COVID-19. Until the results are known, the player in question is self-isolating as a precaution."

City face Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday and were due to take on Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

However, that match was postponed after Madrid went into quarantine in the wake of one of the club's basketball players testing positive for coronavirus.

The United Kingdom has had 590 confirms cases of COVID-19 infection and 10 deaths from the virus.

Aymeric Laporte was named in the starting line-up for Manchester City's Premier League trip to Sheffield United on Tuesday, completing his return from a knee injury.

City have been short at centre-back since Laporte sustained cartilage and meniscus damage in a 4-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion on August 31, having failed to replace Vincent Kompany.

However, the 25-year-old was handed his first appearance in almost five months as one of seven changes made by Pep Guardiola for the game at Bramall Lane on Tuesday.

Laporte was set to partner Nicolas Otamendi at centre-back, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kyle Walker taking the full-back positions.

Fernandinho, who has been used in defence for much of the campaign, had an opportunity to return to midfield alongside Rodrigo.

Sergio Aguero started on the bench, with Gabriel Jesus leading the line and flanked by Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling.

Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva dropped to the bench, while David Silva was not included in the matchday squad.

John Stones and Benjamin Mendy sustained muscle injuries in Saturday's 2-2 draw against Crystal Palace on Saturday and were not involved on Tuesday.

Benjamin Mendy urged Manchester City to avoid dwelling on predictions of doom for their title defence following Saturday's dispiriting draw against Crystal Palace.

City squandered two precious points at the Etihad Stadium after Fernandinho's 90th-minute own goal forced a 2-2 draw.

Pep Guardiola's men had come from behind to take a late lead but ultimately missed a chance to reduce Liverpool's advantage at the top, which could be extended to 16 points on Sunday.

Mendy admitted his team-mates felt "sad" at full-time, but the left-back backed the Premier League champions to block out criticism.

"When another team is doing well you can't be upset or angry," Mendy said, insisting City would "deal well" with the latest setback in their bid to catch the Reds.

"We know when you start the season, after winning the league, you have to win most of the games. This is the truth, no-one can complain. [Liverpool] are a good team, strong team who win, win and win.

"So, in our dressing room, we try to focus on us.

"All the people say Man City are finished, they're finished. They can say what they want – we will just keep focusing on us, play our football, win the games, and fight until the league is finished."

Beginning with Tuesday's trip to Sheffield United, City have at least six domestic games - and a seventh if they progress to round five of the FA Cup - to address their deficiencies before facing Real Madrid in the first leg of a much-anticipated Champions League last-16 tie.

Mendy said the countdown to that Santiago Bernabeu blockbuster would elevate the team's motivation levels.

"That will be another kind of game – Champions League, big game," he said.

"Every game is big, but everyone knows that this game will be watched by everyone so mentally you have a feeling, the atmosphere, how you come to the game puts you on fire, [gets you] excited.

"We will be focused on Sheffield now."

As Manchester City continue to toil defensively in the absence of lynchpin Aymeric Laporte, the switch to a back three against Everton may not have represented the most obvious solution.

So largely desperate have Nicolas Otamendi's performances been this season, City's sole fit senior centre-back only made the bench against Sheffield United on Sunday, two days on from a 90-minute shift in the dramatic collapse at Wolves.

Injury meant there would be no recall for the Argentina defender on New Year's Day, so Pep Guardiola was again struggling to find a central pair, let alone a trio.

But faced with the nous of Carlo Ancelotti, a coach he spent much of the week lauding, Guardiola decided to make the bold call.

Teenager Eric Garcia kept his place following his full Premier League debut against the Blades, and he was joined by midfielders Fernandinho and Rodri.

A 2-1 City victory was the result, and the wider positives were clear to see as the champions stretched Everton to breaking point, a change in defence bringing a new dynamic to their forward line.

City are one of the best attacking outfits in world football, so improvements in that respect are always likely to be marginal. But there is no doubt Guardiola has had issues at full-back this season.

Kyle Walker might be playing as "the best Kyle I have faced" - Guardiola's words - but pre-season signing Joao Cancelo has struggled to establish himself.

Bought from Juventus just months ago, the right-back has been linked with former club Valencia and Bayern Munich, and discussion of his future took up a chunk of his manager's pre-match news conference.

"We buy players for many years, not for six months," said Guardiola, before handing Cancelo just his fifth league start against Everton.

On the opposite flank, Benjamin Mendy - brought in at huge cost in 2017 - has endured a tough campaign. Injuries halted his initial fine form upon his arrival in Manchester, and displays in 2019-20 have been extremely ordinary for the most part.

But both Cancelo and Mendy certainly saw benefit in this new system, given the freedom of the flanks as Rodri and Garcia stepped forward and Fernandinho anchored the side, the three covering for their wing-back colleagues.

Cancelo linked well with Riyad Mahrez and played a key role in the Phil Foden goal that was disallowed in the now customary stretch of VAR farce in the first half.

Meanwhile, Mendy, even up against two talented right-backs in Djibril Sidibe and Seamus Coleman, enjoyed himself going forward, moving the ball at greater speed than in previous miserable performances.

The France international created three chances - as many as any team-mate - while Cancelo supplied two.

Beyond the added threat of support from the previously limited pair, the set-up accommodated different roles for the likes of Mahrez and Foden.

The nominal wingers in this formation instead found space inside, Mahrez teeing up Gabriel Jesus' second. The Brazilian's first came from an Ilkay Gundogan pass, the midfielder let off the leash a little with three men behind him.

It was a system that had to sustain a testing finale, hampered by the predictably unpredictable Claudio Bravo, while crosses remained a source of concern for the diminutive defence into the closing stages, but Guardiola's men held on.

Openly already planning for next season but without Laporte to call on, the City boss could head home encouraged by a different, still dominant, display.

Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez says he is not surprised his old club Leicester City are competing for the Premier League title again.

Brendan Rodgers' Foxes have emerged as the closest competition for Liverpool, who have a 10-point advantage at the summit.

Mahrez was one of Leicester's stars and scooped the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award when they shocked the sporting world by winning the 2015-16 Premier League title under Claudio Ranieri.

The Algeria winger highlighted the form of former team-mate Jamie Vardy - five goals clear in the race for the Golden Boot - as being key for Leicester's success this term.

"I am not surprised by them; they are a good team. They have good players and Jamie Vardy is scoring a lot of goals," Mahrez said ahead of City hosting Leicester on Saturday. 

"They have a good manager. I am not surprised at all. I think [they are genuine title contenders] because they are currently second. I am so happy for them. They deserve to be successful and I am looking forward to the game. 

"We have so many good memories together from my time there. What we achieved together was unbelievable and so that club means a lot to me.” 

"My first title with Leicester is one of the medals that means the most to me. As well as the Africa Cup of Nations, which was for my country and so there is a lot of emotion, it means a lot. 

"But with Leicester, it was an unbelievable achievement, and no one thought we were going to make it."

City's inconsistent form has left them 14 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, who they pipped to the title last season.

A run of 14 successive wins to close out 2018-19 saw City edge out the Reds by 98 points to 97 and Mahrez feels that series of results indicates they champions are not yet out of the race.

"We know we are capable of doing that again," he added. "But you need to put it in on the pitch, be focused and try not to think about winning all of the games. 

"You just need to win the next one and then the next one. We are just thinking about the next game all of the time."

Pep Guardiola had high praise for Phil Foden and Benjamin Mendy after both players impressed in Manchester City's Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb.

Gabriel Jesus scored a hat-trick as City, who were already sure to progress from Group C, came from a goal down to win 4-1 in Croatia and complete an unbeaten group-stage campaign, but Foden was the standout performer on his 50th appearance for the club.

When it was put to Guardiola in a news conference that Foden's display was "something else" for a 19-year-old, the City manager smiled and replied: "As always."

Guardiola added: "I think when he's close to the box he's more dangerous than when he's away from the box. I think he still has to learn a little bit when he plays a little bit away [from the box]... the tempo, the spaces.

"But when he plays close to the box and he can attack the central defenders, attack the goal, he's an incredibly dangerous player. So he played really well again. Really, really well."

Mendy has struggled for fitness and form during his time at City, but Guardiola was also impressed with the former Monaco defender's display, stating: "He played his best game of the season."

However, the former Barcelona coach refused to reveal whether Mendy can consider himself the Premier League champions' first-choice left-back, with Angelino and Oleksandr Zinchenko his other options.

"They have to fight... and I will decide," said Guardiola. "Angelino, when he played, especially at Anfield in a tough game, he was incredible. We know the quality from Oleks [Zinchenko], and of course Mendy has this physicality when he's fit and especially when his mind and his head is in the right position, he's an extraordinary player."

Dinamo finished bottom of the group as a result of their defeat, when a win would have earned them second place at Atalanta's expense.

Nevertheless, coach Nenad Bjelica said: "I am proud and happy for everything we showed in these six matches. We were fighting to go through until the last half of the group stage and we played against big clubs all the way."
 

If winning ugly truly is a mark of champions, Manchester City's Premier League title challenge is very much alive.

After losing to Liverpool two weeks ago and then watching yet another late winner from Jurgen Klopp's relentless Reds at Crystal Palace earlier on Saturday, City's task against Chelsea was straightforward: don't give the leaders any more reason to believe.

Pep Guardiola's message before the game was simple, too, as the task of hauling in Liverpool was laid bare: "We have two options – give up or don't give up." Against Chelsea, they flirted with the former before choosing the latter.

Quite what the message to Benjamin Mendy was is another matter, though, and one that could have deeper implications when the title race enters its more decisive months.

Chelsea, of course, came to Etihad Stadium in buoyant mood - quite the contrast to the way they left it last season after a 6-0 humiliation of a kind rarely experienced, certainly since Roman Abramovich laid down roots in London. But this is a different Chelsea: a team playing with few expectations, bursting with confidence and chasing an eighth away win in a row in all competitions for the first time.

More to the point, there was a plan: get after Mendy. Not included against Liverpool for "tactical reasons", Mendy was part of the Chelsea blueprint from the off. Willian attacked relentlessly down the right and N'Golo Kante often joined him. With Raheem Sterling unwilling to track back, Rodri was dragged to the left to provide cover.

That was how Chelsea struck.

Mateo Kovacic played a one-two with Jorginho on halfway, and Kante set off, a diminutive whirlwind surging through the middle of the sky blue shirts onto the Kovacic pass. Rodri, out of position, did not track him; Fernandinho, emergency centre-back again, could not. Kante finished well under pressure from Mendy, who had belatedly realised the danger. It was Chelsea's second and final shot on target.

Chelsea deserved their lead. Beating City requires a careful plan and the hope of an off-day from Guardiola's men and, boy, they had that in the first half-hour. Kante has not been transformed by Frank Lampard - nobody should forget how Maurizio Sarri was often pilloried for playing the France star further forward - but he has embraced this idea of unleashing the former Leicester City man. In terms of average positions, Kante ended the first half the furthest forward of any Chelsea player. He was a weapon deployed with astute precision.

City, meanwhile, were alarmingly poor. Whatever the end result, Guardiola teams can normally be guaranteed to have more possession and run that little bit harder than their opponents. After 45 minutes, they had had 45 per cent of the ball and been outsprinted 56-50.

And yet, they were winning.

Kevin De Bruyne was wayward with his early passing but it soon became clear that, if it was going to happen for City, it would happen through him. It duly did 29 minutes in, De Bruyne dummying Jorginho and finding the net via the well-placed studs of Kurt Zouma, all after Fernandinho waded back into more comfortable midfield waters to steal possession.

For all their own problems at left-back, City identified the same weakness in Chelsea, a team who, exciting as they are, have kept only three clean sheets in the league under Lampard. Emerson Palmieri was tasked with dealing with Riyad Mahrez and simply never managed it. When he asked for help from Kovacic, they were equally obliging in allowing Mahrez to cut into the box on his left foot and finish in supreme style.

Mahrez was the main threat after the break, a clever corner giving Joao Cancelo a chance to score before a brilliant Kepa Arrizabalaga save denied him a second goal of his own. He would have had a late assist for Sterling but for a correct VAR intervention for offside.

A Chelsea comeback never really looked on and City had control once Ilkay Gundogan was introduced, even if they ended with the lowest possession figure, 46.7 per cent, that Guardiola has seen in 381 league matches in charge of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City.

They are back into third, nine points behind Liverpool, with a slight hop in their step if not quite a spring. Never mind the gap, as David Silva said on Friday; City have overturned them before.

But there is a nagging doubt about Mendy, about how he impacts the team as a whole and whether he is worth the gamble, that is more difficult to ignore.

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