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Manchester City make case for the defence ahead of Champions League game with Porto

While Guardiola's team enjoyed a much-needed goal-fest against Burnley on Saturday, at the other end of the pitch City have conceded only six goals in their last 12 games

If Manchester City answered questions about a lack of goals at one end of the pitch, now they can enjoy discussing a shortage of them at the other.

Saturday’s 5-0 win over Burnley meant the focus shifted from a previously and uncharacteristically goal-shy attack to an increasingly parsimonious defence.

After Pep Guardiola suffered the historic low of seeing one of his teams conceding five goals for the first time, courtesy of Leicester, City have only been breached six times in 12 games.

They face Porto on Tuesday with the joint best defensive record in the Champions League; only the Portuguese champions Luis Diaz has scored against them in Europe.

“Our defence is more consistent now,” said goalkeeper Ederson. “We are developing little by little. It doesn’t happen from one day to the other. It requires time. We have more players and less injuries than last season.”

The contrast with then, when a midfielder did a valiant job as a makeshift defender, is marked. “We know that when one or two centre-backs get injured and Fernandinho needs to play there it makes things more difficult,” said Ederson. “Now we have two centre-backs there.”

The arrivals of Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias have created strength in depth with the latter making a particularly positive impression. “Ruben gave us a lot of solidity,” Guardiola added.

If a newcomer represents the headline act at the back, there have been supporting turns by three enjoying a personal renaissance. John Stones had his toughest season in Manchester last year, was injured in autumn and then displaced by the partnership of Aymeric Laporte and Dias. But he has excelled against Olympiakos and Burnley in the last week.

“After five seasons together we know each other incredibly well and it depends on John,” Guardiola said. “We know he has incredible skills and it depends on him to maintain this level. Players need continuity of being fit and John unfortunately could not [have that] for different reasons.

"In the last two games he played well and we are delighted for him. He is a special guy and so sensitive.”

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Player ratings for City v Burnley

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Benjamin Mendy has also emerged from the shadows for the last two games. The injury-hit left-back belatedly opened his City account against Burnley but Guardiola said: “To score a goal is the last thing I want from him. I want him to defend well and be fit and focused. It depends on him, the same as with John.”

If Mendy now seems the second-choice left-back, it is a reflection of how well the right-footer Joao Cancelo has done on his less favoured flank. “Joao has made an incredible impact this season, especially with his commitment,” Guardiola added.

“His physicality is outstanding and he helped us a lot. His quality is something unique because he can be like a winger in the final third. Like Mendy, [he must] just focus on defence and we are working on it.”

Cancelo, Dias and Ederson, as three former Benfica players, may have a particular motivation to beat Porto, but City, who have already booked their place in the last 16, want to win the group.

Guardiola has ruled out promoting some academy prospects tonight. “We have 19 first-team players fit and all of them travel,” he said. Sergio Aguero is not among them: the Argentinian did not train on Monday because of a minor knee problem

In his absence, Ederson, who used to take some set-pieces, jokingly offered his services as a potential scorer. “When I played for Ribeirao, I took some free kicks but that is in the past now,” he said. “I am the best penalty taker [at City] but I am not chosen to take them.”

Updated: November 30, 2020 06:50 PM

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