Eliaquim Mangala to be given chance to prove his worth at Manchester City
Pep Guardiola will give Eliaquim Mangala the chance to prove he has a long-term future at Manchester City.
The much-maligned defender, who spent last season on loan at Valencia, seemed set leave to leave the Etihad Stadium in the summer as City tried to sign West Brom's Jonny Evans.
Neither eventuality occurred and Mangala, who struggled to make an impact after his £42million move to City in 2014, was restored to the first-team squad.
Now with John Stones out injured and captain Vincent Kompany unlikely to play every one of City's 11 fixtures over the next five weeks, 26-year-old Mangala is set to feature.
Guardiola said: "He's a player with a lot of experience. I'm really impressed with his behaviour in the training sessions. He didn't play regularly until now but he always accepts that and he is always helping.
"For a manager, for a club, for the environment that is so important. He has specific qualities and in this league it's important. We are going to use him. We believe we need him. He's a player for us and he is going to stay here."
With Kompany only recently returned from a hamstring injury and having played 80 minutes at Huddersfield on Sunday, Mangala could even play as the Premier League leaders host Southampton on Wednesday.
That game will see Guardiola, whose side are chasing a club record 19th successive win, come up against a former Barcelona team-mate in Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Guardiola said: "What I saw of Southampton this season, I saw many things. And he made an amazing job at Alaves last season.
"We were together one or two seasons. It was an amazing experience. We were all the time together. He was so curious about football.
"It's been a long time since I've seen him. Tomorrow will be an opportunity after the game to speak a little bit."
City's win at Huddersfield was an 11th in succession in the Premier League and restored an eight-point lead at the top of the table. Not surprisingly, the mood at the club is buoyant.
Guardiola said: "You are not going to find one team after winning a lot of games in a row who are sad in the training sessions, sad in the locker room or even in their private lives. Our faces are happier because we are winning."
Guardiola's first season at City was generally considered underwhelming, but the former Barca boss now feels he is being vindicated for sticking to his principles.
He said: "Always the people come for the people who smell good. Who smells good? The guy who wins. The people - journalists, media, fans, they don't come when you don't smell good. It's simple like that.
"But I cannot change something I don't believe. When you believe in something that is good for the team you have to insist. Sometimes it works next month, sometimes you need more time. It's simple like that."
Mangala feels he is learning a lot from working with Guardiola and is ready to make the most of any opportunity.
The France international, who last started a Premier League game in May 2016, said: "Even if you are not playing, every day you are training with the big players and lots of quality, and with the manager we learn so many things every day.
"It's good for me that I can play some games and I can help the team. This is very important to me. I'm here when the manager needs me to play. I'm just waiting for the opportunity."