Fernandinho has lauded team-mate Ederson as a complete goalkeeper after the Brazil international made two crucial saves in Manchester City's win at Crystal Palace.

City lost to Wolves before the international break but were in dominant form at Selhurst Park – quickfire goals from Gabriel Jesus and David Silva just reward for their display.

However, Pep Guardiola's side – who, temporarily at least, closed the gap between themselves and Liverpool to five points with Saturday's triumph – failed to add to their tally; Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Jesus squandering chances to put the result beyond doubt.

De Bruyne also had what looked a strong penalty appeal turned down, much to Guardiola's frustration, and City might have been made to pay if not for Ederson's heroics.

Having tipped Christian Benteke's header onto the bar, the former Benfica man made another fine stop to deny Wilfried Zaha in the closing stages and Fernandinho was full of praise for his compatriot.

"I think we had a very good performance, we created a lot of chances to score many more goals," said the 34-year-old, who started at centre-back alongside fellow midfielder Rodri.

"Ederson made also two important saves. If you look at the game overall, we deserved to win from the beginning. We went for it, we found the spaces, we missed a lot of chances.

"[Ederson] has shown the player he is since the day he arrived. When the club signed him, in the first training sessions, I was impressed with him.

"He's a goalkeeper and the club signed him, first of all, to save, but it's a great bonus that he can play with his feet, the quality he has to play with his feet is amazing. To me, he is a very complete goalkeeper."

With his opener, striker Jesus took himself on to 50 goals during his time at City, becoming the seventh player to achieve that milestone while being coached by Guardiola.

Jesus has now scored in his past seven starts for the club in all competitions, but Fernandinho insists no player can be sure of their place in Guardiola's line-up.

"It might be surprising but not any player has his spot guaranteed in the starting 11," he added.

"You have to prove yourself in every training session, the players know that and you have to be ready any time an opportunity comes.

"You need to understand what the manager wants and what the team needs from you. [Jesus] has understood and every time he is on the pitch, he tries to give his best, no matter if he plays 90 or 10 minutes."

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.

Pep Guardiola is hopeful midfielder Fernandinho stays at Manchester City beyond the end of the season when his contract expires.

The 34-year-old joined City in 2013 from Shakhtar Donetsk and has gone on to become a vital – if often unheralded – cog in the team.

He featured 29 times last season as City edged out Liverpool in the title race, while he looks set for an important role at centre-back over the coming weeks following injuries to Aymeric Laporte and John Stones.

Spain international midfielder Rodri was brought in from Atletico Madrid in the transfer window, with every indication suggesting him to be the long-term replacement for Fernandinho.

But Guardiola has no desire to see him leave, even if he is unsure about what is happening in terms of discussions.

"It's not my business, I'm sorry guys, it's Txiki's [Begiristain, City sporting director] business," Guardiola told reporters when asked if there had been progress in talks. "Do you have Txiki's phone number?

"Of course, he is a joyful player," Guardiola added when asked if he wanted the Brazilian to stay.

"What he has done for all of us, especially me as a manager, our time together has paid off, it's incredible. He's incredible, so no doubts."

Left-back Benjamin Mendy is closing in on a return to fitness after he missed the majority of last season with a serious knee injury.

And Guardiola is excited for the France international's comeback, convinced he will add another dimension to City's play.

"In the future he is going to play a little bit more regularly and try to understand what we want to do, because he has missed two seasons without training and the guy, to understand things, he has to practice," he said.

"Just for the videos, or just talking, he has to train and play and play and play and always we dreamed that he would be an incredibly important player for us.

"With him we can attack more constantly, he brings a special quality that only he has in our team, so with [Oleksandr] Zinchenko we cannot attack the wides and deep, but his qualities are completely different.

"With Mendy we can do that. Hopefully he can be fit, healthy and play."

Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho says he felt fully prepared to play in defence against Shakhtar Donetsk after training as a centre-back all season.

The Premier League champions overcame fitness issues to commence their Champions League campaign with a comfortable 3-0 victory in Ukraine.

Aymeric Laporte and John Stones missed the match due to knee and muscle injuries respectively, forcing Fernandinho to shuffle backwards in a makeshift central-defensive partnership with Nicolas Otamendi.

The pair performed admirably at Metalist Stadium, recording a clean sheet to temporarily ease Pep Guardiola's headaches.

"It was easier at the back because we played as a team and the guys up front closed down the space," Fernandinho told BT Sport.

"I've been training in this position since the start of the season.

"Of course, Pep knows everything about our squad, our team and when he needs you. I think every player should be ready.

"Today was my time, my opportunity and I hope I can get better and improve a little bit more."

City expect to regain England international Stones, a starter in last weekend's Premier League loss to Norwich City, in around a month.

Laporte will not return until next year after damaging cartilage and the lateral meniscus in his right knee in the win over Brighton and Hove Albion on August 31.

Guardiola's men have five matches to battle through before the next international break and the City boss accepts it will be impossible for Otamendi, 31, and Fernandinho, 34, to play without rest.

"For one or two games it's okay, but for three or four months, I don't know what's going to happen," Guardiola said.

"Both were incredible [against Shakhtar]. Nico showed incredible personality. Maybe Kyle [Walker can play at centre-back], I don't know, but these two cannot play every three days.

"Fernandinho can play many positions with a good personality and that's why it's so important for us."

Manchester City made light of their defensive crisis as Fernandinho filled in adeptly at centre-back and captained the Premier League champions to a 3-0 victory over his former club Shakhtar Donetsk.

Hampered by the absences of John Stones and Aymeric Laporte due to injury, City boss Pep Guardiola named Fernandinho alongside Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of his defence and was able to celebrate a clean sheet despite the odd shaky moment.

Riyad Mahrez scored his first goal of the season to settle City's nerves after 24 minutes and his interplay with Ilkay Gundogan produced the visitors' best moments at Metalist Stadium.

Gundogan, ably assisted by Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne, ran the show from midfield and surged forward at every opportunity, getting himself on the scoresheet thanks to Mahrez's assist seven minutes before half-time.

Guardiola warned of the danger Shakhtar posed on the counter-attack in his pre-match comments and Luis Castro's men did manage to set Moraes free on a number of occasions, but the Brazil-born striker failed to carry his impressive domestic form onto Europe's biggest stage.

City rounded off a highly satisfying Group C opener when Gabriel Jesus rolled a third goal home 14 minutes from time to secure a repeat result of last season's clash between these teams on this ground.

City pressed Shakhtar from the outset and Rodri should have done better when De Bruyne's cross hit the back of his head.

Marlos sent a thundering drive flashing past Ederson's net as Shakhtar countered, but City's pressure paid off when Gundogan curled a shot onto the post and it bounced into the path of Mahrez, who guided it into the empty net from close range.

Moraes had a gilt-edged chance to equalise from the corner of the six-yard box but his shot hit Ederson in the chest and City punished his wastefulness.

Rodri's cross-field ball found Mahrez and the Algeria international played in Gundogan, who fired a first-time shot just inside the post with deadly accuracy.

Moraes made a poor attempt to chip Ederson when the City keeper got caught outside his box early in the second half but Raheem Sterling missed an even better chance at the other end, hitting the outside of the post after Sergey Krivtsov gifted him possession 12 yards out.

Jesus made no such mistake when De Bruyne capitalised on sloppy Shakhtar passing and released the Brazilian, who rolled a shot into the bottom-right corner of the net and made certain of his side's winning start in the Champions League.

 

What does it mean? City reign in Ukraine

After becoming the first English team to beat Shakhtar away from home when they triumphed here by the same scoreline last season, City earned a repeat result without a number of key players.

Gunning for a regular place

Ilkay Gundogan has only started three of City's five domestic games this season but when he is on this kind of form he looks undroppable.

The 28-year-old covered a huge amount of ground, gathered loose balls and ensured Guardiola's men turned defence into devastating attacks with remarkable efficiency.

Shakhtar need more from Moraes

Shakhtar went into this game knowing chances would be few and far between, but Moraes had more than enough opportunities to get on the scoresheet and squandered them all.

What's next?

After their shock loss to Norwich, City will hope to get back to winning ways in the Premier League when they entertain Watford on Saturday, while Shakhtar look to extend their seven-game domestic winning streak at Desna.

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."

Aymeric Laporte and Ederson are already confident Rodri is the right man to provide competition to Fernandinho in the Manchester City midfield.

City lacked a genuine alternative to key man Fernandinho in the holding role last season, but Rodri has since arrived from Atletico Madrid in a club-record £63million deal.

Rodri started at West Ham on Saturday and soon looked up to speed in a 5-0 win at London Stadium.

Laporte praised the midfielder's ability to move the ball out of tight spaces in the middle of the pitch, comparing the Spaniard to Fernandinho.

"He can do that at Fernandinho's level," Laporte told The Athletic. "Fernandinho does it a lot.

"I think the two are very good, they offer a lot to the team, most of all when we play out from the back."

And goalkeeper Ederson recognises the importance of City having depth in the one position where previously they were light.

"He plays the same way as Fernandinho, he's strong in the air, goes up well, he fights well," Ederson added.

"That's important because last season we only had Fernandinho in this position and now we have two great players."

The Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) has taken a stand against "racist remarks" after Selecao midfielder Fernandinho was targeted with online abuse following the country's World Cup exit.

Belgium booked a World Cup semi-final against France as Brazil's hopes of winning a sixth title were ended by a 2-1 defeat in Kazan. 

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