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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Guardiola hails Delph'sĀ 'exceptional' left-back display as first-choice Mendy faces lengthy layoff

Manchester City made it two wins from two in the Uefa Champions League on Tuesday evening, a 2-0 win over Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has lavished praise on Fabian Delph after the midfielder's "exceptional" performance as a stand-in left-back against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Uefa Champions League on Tuesday.

Delph has found himself on the fringes of the City squad so far this season, limited to one substitute appearance each in the Premier League and Champions League and making his only start in the League Cup third round victory at West Bromwich Albion.

However, with first-choice left-back Benjamin Mendy facing a lengthy injury layoff, Delph was called on to fill the void against Ukraine's Shakhtar as City emerged 2-0 winners to continue their perfect start to the Champions League group stage.

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"I am so happy with him," Guardiola said. "Midfield players can play everywhere. He's a nice guy who has no complaints. He understands the rules and he made an amazing game against Marlos.

"As a midfield player he is so clever. He didn't miss one pass. I am so happy for him. Last season he was a lot of time injured and when he was fit I didn't count too much on him. That's one of my regrets.

"He will play more often and hopefully have a good season. He had an exceptional game."

Guardila appeared to confirm the worst regarding Mendy's injury, comparing his situation to that of German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who spent nine months sidelined with a knee problem.

Mendy, signed for £50 million (Dh246.5m) from Monaco in the summer, injured his knee during City's weekend win over Crystal Palace and will fly to Barcelona to see Guardiola's personal medical team for tests on Thursday.

"He is travelling to Barcelona and we are going to see what he has," Guardiola said. "Our first impression is that it will it be a little long, longer than we expected which is unfortunate.

"It's very frustrating for him, first as a person but, like happened with Ilkay Gundogan, I feel really sad for him. The way we want to play, we will miss him a lot. He is a unique player, the joy he gives on and off the pitch. I think it is a major setback."

Guardiola, who spent £130m on three full-backs in a 10-day period over the summer, also conceded that the injury could force his club into the transfer market in January for a replacement.

"We will see in January," he said. "We thought next summer we would look for another left-back but we will see what we will do.

"We have alternatives in the squad - Danilo, (Fabian) Delph, Fernandinho can play there. We will see as we go along."

City's victory, their eighth in nine unbeaten games this season, featured goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.

But Sergio Aguero missed a penalty which would have seen him equal Eric Brook's club record of 177 goals which dates back to the 1930s.

"It doesn't matter that he missed a penalty. The next time he will score," Guardiola said. "That is going to happen. It doesn't matter today or tomorrow. He doesn't need 50 goals to break a record just one. The moment it happens ask me about it."

City have now compiled a 29-3 goal difference in their nine games this season and, as they prepare for Saturday's trip to defending Premier League champions Chelsea, their manager admits he does not know his best attacking formation.

"No. I have a lot of confidence in five or six players. When playing with Sergio or Gabriel (Jesus) we have a lot of confidence," he said. "Bernardo (Silva) is an extraordinarily good player. A perfect player. I have a lot of confidence in them all. I sleep well in that respect."

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