Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan says Benjamin Mendy’s return to fitness is a timely boost for their depleted backline. Before the international break, centre-back Aymeric Laporte injured his knee in their 4-0 victory over Brighton on August 31 and a subsequent diagnosis has ruled him out for six months, according to manager Pep Guardiola.
Then, on the eve of City’s Champions League meeting against Shakhtar Donetsk, John Stones was ruled out of action for up to five weeks with a muscular injury.
That meant Fernandinho had to play in central defence alongside Nicolas Otamendi, though City were still able to routinely beat their Ukrainian opponents 3-0 to get off to the perfect start in the Champions League group stages.
It also marked a return to action for the injured-plagued Mendy, who came on for the last seven minutes of the contest, to make just his 24th appearance for the club in three seasons.
Gundogan says it is important to have the Frenchman, who will now provide extra competition in the left-back position, back along with current first-choice Oleksandr Zinchenko, and summer recruit Angelino. “It was great to see Benjamin back and it is a big boost for us,” said Gundogan.
“Having him available again will be great for the team because we have missed him for the past five months and it’s also good for him. “His fitness will improve as he gets some more game time and last night was an important step forward for him.”
The 25-year-old arrived at the Etihad Stadium two years ago from Monaco with a burgeoning reputation as one of the finest full-backs in Europe.
However, he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his first season and was only able to make seven Premier League appearances.
He then had to undergo knee surgery again last term and will hope for better luck for the season ahead.