I I don 't feel that Manchester City faced Chelsea in the Champions League final in Porto. Kai Havertz's goal three minutes before the break was enough to give Chelsehas a 1-0 victory and make them European champions for the second time. That late May game was also the last time John Stones showed up at Manchester City.
Stones enjoyed a rebirth under Pep Guardiola last season, forging a strong center-back partnership with Ruben Dias as City clinched the title while conceding just 32 goals in 38 games, the league's best defensive record. He was awarded a a five-year contract in early August and was to be expected to keep his jersey this season. However, it didn't work out that way for the 27-year-old. Stones has played for England nine times - in his seven Euro 2020 appearances and two World Cup qualifiers - since he last played for City.
Stones was given extended leave after his efforts with England over the summer, but despite everything he now has to struggle to recover its place. "John arrived late, and after we came back for Game 2 he had a problem with his leg, he got injured," Guardiola said last month, but after making two of the three playoffs England's World Cup during the September international break, which lasted the full 90 minutes in both, Stones appear to be back at full throttle ngth.
Unfortunately for Stones, however, his downtime has coincided with the return of Aymeric Laporte in Guardiola's first team plans. When City signed Dias from Benfica for £ 62million last summer it looked like he was going to forge a partnership ofe central defender with Laporte. However, Laporte only started 14 league appearances last season and was forced to watch the Stones and Dias excel. Over the summer it was reported that he could leave the club, either to return to Spain or to sign for Spurs as a heavyweight in a deal for Harry Kane. Still, he returned to the team. Nathan Ake had a shot on the opening weekend of the season, but he looked shaky as City were beaten 1-0 by Tottenham, clearing the way for Laporte to reclaim his place.
Laporte has played in City's last three games and has been excellent. City took all three wins by beating Norwich 5-0 , Arsenal5-0 and Leicester 1-0 . They didn't concede a goal and allowed just 5.3 shots per game, less than any other team in the league, while averaging 69.2% possession - more than any other team. of the league.
Much of that dominance is due to the ball-playing abilities of Laporte, who ranks first in the league in passing pars. match (102.3) - Dias is second in the league so far with 84 assists per game - and success rate (96.7%). Stones was forced to watch his teammate shine alongside Dias, much like Laporte must have done last season.
The stones, of course, aren't no slouch on the ball. Its 93.3% success rate was the best in the Premier League last season but, while Laporte is not mistaken, Guardiola has no reason to break the partnership that is developing between its two central defenders. The City manager has been reluctant to tinker with his team this season; he's released the same starting XI for his last three league games. For a manager who has made 172 appearances without naming an unchanged team at City, this is an unusual level of consistency.
City dominated Norwich, Arsenal and Leicester in those three games, scoring 11 goals and conceding none. With Laporte consolidating his partnership with Dias, the teams will struggle to break City. Laporte was retired last season after a disappointing performance against Spurs, but he has shown no signs of a drop in form on the horizon. For Stones, that means coming back to the bench to watch the City machine go totop gear.