Bernardo Silva is confident Manchester City will ride through their defensive injury woes.
The back-to-back Premier League champions have just one fit senior specialist centre-back in Nicolas Otamendi after John Stones joined long-term injury victim Aymeric Laporte on the sidelines this week.
The absence of the pair has highlighted manager Pep Guardiola’s lack of cover in the position after former captain Vincent Kompany left without being replaced at the end of last season.
Midfielder Fernandinho, who had been preparing for such an eventuality since the summer, filled in as a makeshift defender and looked comfortable in Wednesday’s 3-0 Champions League win at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Yet with City now frequently in action midweek as well as at weekends, there are doubts the 34-year-old will be able to start every game.
Coming after last weekend’s surprise error-ridden defeat at Norwich, City have received some rare criticism in recent days – but Silva is taking no notice.
“People can criticise and say what they want,” the Portuguese said. “We don’t need to prove anything to anyone after what we’ve done the last two seasons. We’re relaxed.
“Of course we’re not happy because we want to do better and we know losing against Norwich isn’t ideal, but all teams have good and bad moments. It’s impossible to stay three seasons, only with good moments.
“Sometimes you will have bad moments and it’s the way you react to those bad moments that show how good a team you are and that’s what we’ll try to do. Every time we’ve had bad moments in the past we’ve always reacted well, and that’s what we’ll try to do again.”
Shakhtar did not provide a stern test of City’s unfamiliar Fernandinho-Otamendi centre-half pairing in their Group C encounter in Kharkiv. Goals from Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus ensured City won comfortably as they visited the Metalist Stadium for a third year in succession.
City looked good in attack with Kevin De Bruyne also prominent but their efficiency at that end of the pitch is not in question. It is at the back where they quickly need to find a winning formula and Silva felt Fernandinho looked the part.
He said: “We saw last season that he’s able to play in that position. He’s very intelligent and when you understand the game and you’re intelligent like he is, it’s easy.”
Gundogan was also impressed by the performance of the Brazilian and expects him to play a critical role in the weeks ahead.
The German said: “He’s going to be massively important there. He’s vital now.
“We have two defenders out at the moment and so in the next games we will need Dinho even more.
“It’s going to be vital to stay stable at the back, then up front we’re always able to score.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
The first Fantasy Premier League round after the international break brought mixed results with a few surprises catching managers off guard.
The big story from Gameweek 5 was Premier League champions Manchester City suffering a 3-2 defeat at Norwich but Tammy Abraham’s hat-trick in Chelsea‘s 5-2 win at Wolves was also unprecedented as was Tottenham‘s 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace.
City have the opportunity to get back on track at home to Watford while Arsenal also enjoy a favourable fixture as they entertain Aston Villa.
Here are a few tips to help guide you through GW6.
CAPTAIN – PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG | ARSENAL | 11M
If it’s reliability you crave then look no further than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Arsenal forward has scored points in every game so far with five goals and an assist to his name.
Within an unpredictable Arsenal outfit, he’s been the one constant, posing a consistent goal threat. Though the Gunners are suspect defensively, they still look good going forward and Aubameyang is involved more often than not.
The Gabon international has been quite efficient as well, scoring from over 31 per cent of his shots. He may not have the volume of efforts the likes of Raheem Sterling or Sergio Aguero boast but he’s certainly up there with 16 of his own and has made the most of his chances.
With Villa to visit the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, expect him to be among the points again.
RAHEEM STERLING (12.3m) is quickly falling out of favour with some FPL managers and that’s just ridiculous. He’s blanked two GWs in a row but he’s still among the very best assets in the game and will certainly finish in the top three come the end of the season. He was unfortunate against Norwich with Aguero failing to convert a couple of his crosses while he hit the woodwork himself. Keep the faith.
TEEMU PUKKI (7.1m) again showed off his ability to bag points against top opposition as he came away from the City game with a goal, assist and maximum bonus points. He should be a permanent fixture in your XI and away to Burnley, he makes a strong case for the armband.
ASHLEY BARNES (6.7m) has blanked in the last couple of GWs but his numbers have still been good. His 16 shots so far is level with Aubameyang and just one shy of Pukki and he’s third for shots inside the six-yard box (3). The striker is due a goal and Norwich’s expansive style coupled with injuries at the back should afford him plenty of chances.
ONE TO GET
SON HEUNG-MIN | TOTTENHAM | 9.6M
Son Heung-min boasts the underlying stats you wish Kane would. During Tottenham’s 4-0 win over Palace, he had five shots to the skipper’s one. He also had eight touches inside the box to Kane’s two. With an ownership of just over five per cent, he’s a great differential and has a few good immediate fixtures. Being 1.4m cheaper than Kane and listed as a midfielder, he’s the more desirable Spurs asset.
ONE TO AVOID
JOHN LUNDSTRAM | SHEFFIELD UNITED | 4.3M
Lower those eyebrows. We aren’t suggesting dumping the legend that is John Lundstram. We’re grateful for his service as a 4m asset but if he isn’t in your team yet, now is not the time to sign him. He’s gone up in price by 0.3m for starters but the real concern is Sheffield United’s fixtures. They face Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs and United in the next eight GWs. Steer clear.
EMILIANO BUENDIA | NORWICH | 6.0M
Pukki may be the life of the party but Emiliano Buendia is the one catering it. The playmaker is the creative hub of the Norwich side and already has four assists this season, coming from 13 key passes.
At only 6m he represents a bargain as well and is owned by only 1.3 per cent. His numbers are all the more impressive when you consider that Norwich have already faced City, Liverpool and Chelsea in their opening five games.
The Canaries are away to Burnley in GW6 who have been better defensively this season, but did concede three when Liverpool paid them a visit. And of course, Norwich have proved they can score against anyone.
Former Barcelona midfielder Xavi has claimed that Raheem Sterling is most likely to pick up the mantle from Lionel Messi as the best player in the world.
The Al Sadd manager named Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Mohamed Salah as potential successors but is confident that the English winger has the pole position in the race.
Xavi explained that playing under Pep Guardiola has helped Sterling convert himself into a dangerous player.
“Messi is the best ever for me, and even though they’re both still playing at a very high level, there will come the day not so long away when somebody else must step into those shoes,” he told The Mirror.
“You look at young players who can be crowned the future best in the world and you still think of Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Mohamed] Salah and of course Sterling. I look at the moment and Sterling is winning that race.
“He’s always been a good player, a dangerous player, but under Pep he [has] become one of the best in the world.
“I know how Pep works – he would have worked closely with him since his arrival – where he needs to improve and what he needed to work on.
“We’re now seeing the results of that. He’s still young and can be the world’s best.”