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Manchester City’s defensive crisis worsens with fresh John Stones blow

Manchester City’s defensive crisis worsens with fresh John Stones blow

Manchester City’s John Stones is forced off with an injury in England’s friendly with Belgium, just five days before the Premier League champions take on Arsenal.

Manchester City‘s defensive ranks have suffered another concerning injury blow ahead of the Premier League champions’ crunch clash with Arsenal at the Etihad on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola‘s men – third in the top-flight table – will fall four points behind the league-leading Gunners if they fall to a second defeat to Mikel Arteta‘s men this season, having gone down 1-0 at the Emirates in February.

On the flip side, the treble winners could reclaim their perch with a satisfactory result if Liverpool also fall short against Brighton & Hove Albion, but Guardiola risks entering the showdown with a decimated rearguard.

During England‘s loss to Brazil at the weekend, Kyle Walker lasted just 19 minutes before succumbing to an unspecified injury, which saw him withdraw from the squad for the meeting with Belgium.

Furthermore, Manuel Akanji pulled out of the Switzerland squad earlier on Tuesday, while Portugal’s Ruben Dias was one of eight Selecao players not risked for their second friendly with Slovenia.

🚨🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 John Stones was forced off for England due to injury just 10 minutes into the game. pic.twitter.com/YsmzIad3mO

— EuroFoot (@eurofootcom) March 26, 2024

John Stones joins growing City injury list

Now, Guardiola’s defensive dilemma has worsened owing to an injury to John Stones, who lasted just 10 minutes during England’s’s friendly with Belgium before succumbing to an issue.

The former Everton man was selected to partner Lewis Dunk for the visit of the Red Devils, but he got his leg awkwardly caught in the turf as he miscontrolled the ball and signalled that he needed to come off.

Liverpool’s Joe Gomez was brought on to replace the stricken Stones, whose injury severity remains unclear at this point, but he has now emerged as Guardiola’s latest doubt for the visit of the Premier League leaders this weekend.

Stones has already endured a frustrating season with injuries in the 2023-24 campaign, missing the first portion of the season with a hip problem and making just 11 starts in the Premier League, including each of City’s last four top-flight games.

Hailed for his ability to stride forward in the middle of the park and spray passes forward, Stones will be assessed ahead of the weekend’s showdown, which Guardiola risks entering with a threadbare backline.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on March 3, 2024© Reuters

What could Man City’s defence look like against Arsenal?

Not one of City’s stricken defenders has been ruled out of the visit of Arsenal at this juncture, and there is every chance that all of Guardiola’s injured rearguard troops have just sustained minor niggles and are being spared for Sunday’s pivotal clash.

However, should the worst come to the worst and their concerns prove more serious than first feared, Guardiola will have to tinker significantly at the back, where first-choice goalkeeper Ederson is already a major doubt with the knee injury he picked up against Liverpool.

Dias should be fine to protect potential stand-in goalkeeper Stefan Ortega – there has been no mention of an injury to the Portuguese centre-back – but Stones and Akanji missing out would leave Guardiola down to the bare bones.

Either Nathan Ake or Josko Gvardiol would expect to link arms with Dias in the centre in that scenario, with the other holding the fort at left-back, unless Guardiola brings Sergio Gomez back in from the cold.

Rico Lewis will be on standby as Walker’s possible replacement at right-back, but Rodri represents a wild card defensive option; the Spaniard has played a handful of games at centre-back for Man City, including in a Premier League draw with Brighton & Hove Albion last season.

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