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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Pep Guardiola relies on squad depth as Manchester City face crowded fixture schedule

Spaniard insists "everybody is going to play" as City face a run of three games in seven days, including a trip to Premier League champions Chelsea next week.

Leroy Sane, left, was granted his first start of the season in the 2-1 League Cup win at West Brom and rewarded Pep Guardiola by scoring both goals. Matthew Childs / Reuters
Leroy Sane, left, was granted his first start of the season in the 2-1 League Cup win at West Brom and rewarded Pep Guardiola by scoring both goals. Matthew Childs / Reuters

Pep Guardiola has said Leroy Sane and Yaya Toure have important roles to play at Manchester City as his unbeaten side prepare to face struggling Crystal Palace.

Sane, 21, started for just the second time this season as City beat West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup in midweek, taking their return to six wins and a draw from their seven league and cup games.

Sane proved worthy of his place by scoring twice in a 2-1 win while fellow midfielder Toure also started, used for the first time in any capacity this season by Guardiola, who had left him out of his squad altogether in recent weeks.

Guardiola praised Germany international Sane, signed for £37 million (Dh184.6m) from Schalke in August 2016, for his midweek performance.

"He played so well, not just in terms of goals, although his second goal was fantastic, but also with the way he kept the ball, how he could not lose the ball and fighting," Guardiola said.

Toure, 34, has had a fractious relationship with the City manager, dating back to their time together at Barcelona, although Guardiola insists that the Ivory Coast player, too, has a role to play.

After the Palace match at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, City host Shakhtar Donestsk in the Uefa Champions League on Tuesday before visiting reigning champions Chelsea ahead of the October international break.

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"We need him and of course it's not easy for the players who didn't play in the last games," Guardiola said of Toure. "But he showed his personality because it's not easy for him to play in these types of games. He did it well and that's why we're happy for him to come back. And we are going to use him.

"Everybody is going to play. We have a lot of games. Three days later we have a game, then three days later we have the Champions League and then, after, Stamford Bridge."

City received an injury boost as tests showed German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan hadn't suffered serious damage to his left knee after limping off at the Hawthorns on his first start in nine months.

Gundogan, 26, was just back from another long-term knee injury, but his latest problem was diagnosed as a sprain and he is expected to return to training in the coming days.

Palace, still without a Premier League goal, face a daunting task if they are to collect their first point of the campaign after a disastrous start to the season.

Frank de Boer paid the price for overseeing defeats in the opening four league games and successor Roy Hodgson failed to break that run in his first game in charge against Southampton last weekend.

The midweek League Cup defeat of Huddersfield Town provided a confidence boost as did the return of Mamadou Sakho, who has made a full-time return to the south London club after a successful loan spell last season from Liverpool.

With Manchester United and Chelsea next up, things could get significantly worse for Hodgson's side before they get better but the new manager believes there are positive signs, particularly with Sakho back in contention.

"I'm delighted to be back on the training field with these players because I think they have a genuine desire to get better and become a better team," Hodgson said. "We can become a team that is hard to beat and cause more problems for the opposition."