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Guardiola salutes Zinchenko for easing left-back woes ahead of pivotal week

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NEWS
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601   //    01 Oct 2018, 03:00 IST
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Manchester City's Oleksandr Zinchenko

Pep Guardiola lauded Oleksandr Zinchenko as "absolutely brilliant" in Manchester City's 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion, partially easing the Premier League champions' left-back woes ahead of a vital week.

First-choice left-sided defender Benjamin Mendy has been struggling with a bruised metatarsal, although there are also reports Guardiola banished him from training last week after becoming exasperated with his attitude.

Fabian Delph – who deputised for the Frenchman last term – is also out ahead of a testing week for City, who face Hoffenheim away in the Champions League on Tuesday before travelling to Premier League title rivals Liverpool, who retained their unbeaten start with a 1-1 draw at Chelsea.

It looks unlikely either Delph or Mendy will feature in Germany, meaning Zinchenko – who filled the role on occasion last season – is tipped to do so again.

Although reservations remain over the Ukraine international's defensive capabilities, Guardiola gave the 21-year-old a vote of confidence, impressed with his display on Saturday.

"Absolutely brilliant," Guardiola told reporters of Zinchenko's performance.

"Delph will not be back, Mendy is training much better, but I don't know [if he will make the Hoffenheim match].

"We cannot forget Aleks [Zinchenko] helped us a lot last season and played really good. All the players know they are part of the team.

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"People maybe did not expect Zinchenko would play, but he played good. He played good last game [the EFL Cup win at Oxford United], so [Saturday] he deserved to play again."

The prospect of featuring in pivotal matches would leave Zinchenko somewhat vindicated after he rejected a transfer to Wolves in August in favour of fighting for his place at the Etihad Stadium.

Centre-back Aymeric Laporte and right-back Danilo represent other options at left-back for Guardiola.

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