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