The match at the Etihad will be the third consecutive league game the winger has missed since Pep Guardiola‘s City failed to get their man on January 31, transfer deadline day.
Mahrez, 26, has not featured for the mid-table Foxes, in matches or training, since his dream move to the Premier League leaders stalled.
“I think Riyad is not available for Saturday’s game,” Puel told reporters at his pre-match press conference on Thursday. “I hope Riyad can get his head right and come back with us and work hard. The best way is for him to come back and enjoy his football.
“He is a magnificent player and he enjoys his football. He loves his team-mates, and that’s important. He loves to touch the football but he needs to come back right. I hope he can come back with a good attitude and prepared to work, but he will need time, and time to be match-fit.
“It’s important this remains inside the club and private, not in the public. The most important thing for me is to keep Riyad and the club and the fans united and in a good way about this. It is important to keep a good feeling together through these difficulties.”
Despite a second transfer request from the player in eight months, Leicester reportedly held out for a deal worth £80 million, with even City’s cash-rich Abu Dhabi owners unwilling to go beyond a reported £50m plus an unnamed player they valued at £15m.
Mahrez is unhappy that Leicester were determined to secure such a huge profit on a player they bought for a reported £350,000 from French second-division side Le Havre in 2014 and who played a pivotal role in the club’s rise from the Championship to Premier League champions.
He was crowned players’ player of the year during Leicester’s remarkable title-winning campaign in 2015/16, scoring 17 Premier League goals, and promptly signed a four-year deal to help lead their Champions League charge.
Adding to Mahrez’s anger is that other heroes of Leicester’s title-winning triumph – N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater – have been allowed to leave the club and join Chelsea with far less resistance.
England left-back Leighton Baines is nearing a return to action having sat out Everton’s last 14 games since limping off just 27 minutes into the 4-1 defeat at Southampton.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s clash with his former club Crystal Palace, Allardyce said of his squad’s overall fitness: “Actually pretty good I think, the best since I’ve been here.
“(Maarten) Stekelenburg’s nearly joining back in training again, Leighton (Baines) is not on the field yet in training but he’s in the full mode for recovery, he’s running. We would expect by the time we play Watford (on February 24) he’ll be clear of the injuries he’s had.”
This weekend’s game at Goodison Park will be refereed by Jon Moss, who had a difficult afternoon at Anfield last Sunday.
Moss awarded Tottenham two penalties, the first particularly contentious when TV microphones picked up discussions with his assistant, in a dramatic 2-2 draw with Liverpool.
👤 | Sam says the injury situation is ‘the best since I’ve been here’.
— Everton (@Everton) February 8, 2018
“I think he chose to do the right thing and talk it out and then come to the decision,” Allardyce said.
“Whether that decision was right or wrong, only him and his bosses have to discuss that and come to the conclusion. The only thing they didn’t do was cover their mouths up, like everybody says you’ve got to these days because the camera goes so close and listens to what they’re saying.”
On whether Everton Under-23s coach David Unsworth, who this week reportedly turned down the chance to manage Oxford, would remain at the club, Allardyce added: “I think David’s expressed his will to be a manager, hasn’t he? So I’m not so sure my opinion makes much difference, whether he should or shouldn’t stay, because I haven’t been here long enough. That’s the board’s decision and David’s decision in his own right.”
Sanchez joined in a deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan go the other way, and last weekend he marked his Old Trafford debut with a man-of-the-match display and a goal as Huddersfield were beaten 2-0.
The 29-year-old has also made an impact away from the pitch, according to shirt sales and social media figures announced by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward on Thursday.
“Alexis Sanchez has set a new January signing record in terms of shirt sales – three times that previous record,” Woodward said in United’s second quarter 2018 earnings report conference call.
“Last month we further invested in the future of the club by extending Jose Mourinho’s contract and entering into an exchange agreement with Arsenal, swapping Mkhitaryan for Sanchez, strengthening Jose’s attacking options.
“This trade generated some interesting social media stats.
“It was the biggest United post on Instagram with two millions likes and comments, the most shared United Facebook post ever, the most retweeted United post ever and #Alexis7 was the number one trending topic on Twitter worldwide.
“To put all that into context, the announcement posts generated 75 per cent more interaction than the sale of the world’s most expensive player last summer when Neymar moved from Barcelona to PSG.”
Woodward pointed to United’s “solid business model” as being behind them signing Sanchez and extending Mourinho’s deal, while it was confirmed that the club’s guidance figures are based on reaching the Champions League quarter-finals.
Returning to European football’s top table this season has seen wages rise, with the Red Devils forking out £69.6milion in the second quarter – a 9.4 per cent increase on the previous year.
That is part of the reason behind United’s accounts showing a £29m loss for the period, as is a deferred tax asset impacted by the corporate income tax rate in the United States dropping from 35 per cent to 21 per cent.
United insist it will not affect the club in terms of competitiveness or financial fair play.
An explanation in the club’s financial results read: “This necessitated a re-measurement of the existing US deferred tax position in the period to 31 December 2017.
“As a result the current period tax expense includes a non-cash tax accounting write off of £48.8 million.
“Accordingly, this has resulted in a loss for the period and basic and diluted loss per share for the period.”
United continue to expect revenues for 2018 to be between £575million and £585million – the third successive year they will earn more than half a billion pounds.
Revenue for the second quarter, ending December 31, 2017, is up four per cent to £163.9m from the same period the year before.
United’s net debt is £328.6m – a decrease of £80.7m over the year – while the gross US dollar debt principal remains unchanged.