Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed that Jack Grealish, Nathan Ake and Kalvin Phillips have all returned to training and could be in contention to face Aston Villa on Saturday evening.
All three players were absent on Wednesday night as the Citizens secured an emphatic 6-0 victory at home to Nottingham Forest, a game which saw Erling Braut Haaland net his second successive hat-trick.
Grealish has now missed each of City’s last four Premier League games due to a minor knee injury, while Ake has not played for the Citizens since tweaking his groin in the first half of the 3-3 draw at Newcastle United.
Phillips, meanwhile, has not featured in the last two league matches after sustaining a shoulder problem in the charity friendly draw against Barcelona last week.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday ahead of Saturday’s trip to Villa Park, Guardiola has provided a positive update on the trio.
When questioned about Grealish and Phillips, Guardiola said: “Much better, I saw them on the other pitch in the training session and they are close, with the ball. Nathan [Ake] as well, they are much much better.
“Maybe we will see for Aston Villa, the Champions League (against Sevilla), or the next one for Tottenham. They are closer and we need them because we are few players.”
Guardiola has also provided an update on centre-back Aymeric Laporte who is yet to play for City this season after undergoing surgery on his knee over the summer.
When asked when Laporte could return to first-team action, the Spaniard said: “I would say one month ago we said September or October. Early October. He’ll be ready after the international break.
“We won’t force it. Knee is a tough injury. I cannot forget being in those positions, West Ham away and Villa we had no alternatives. Ruben and Nathan were injured. Another reason we go to [Manuel] Akanji so we will be fine. It was a bone problem but I’m not a doctor.”
The deadline day arrival of centre-back Manuel Akanji from Borussia Dortmund has bolstered Guardiola’s defensive options heading into a busy fixture schedule, which will see City play six games in 18 days.
Guardiola is “glad” to have added the 27-year-old Switzerland international to his ranks, and he has explained why City have decided to move for the defender.
“We had an incredible four central defenders before Manuel,” Guardiola added. “[Laporte] has a tough injury and is still a month, month and a half away, and Nathan still has muscular problems. So we could not face this busy schedule with just two central defenders.
“We had a chance to bring someone with one year left on his deal. He is fast, really good in the build-up. We saw this when we faced Dortmund three seasons ago. We are glad he is here.”
Man City are one of three Premier League sides who remain unbeaten after their opening five games of the new season, and they will be confident of success this weekend as they have won each of their last nine meetings against Aston Villa, scoring at least twice on each occasion.