Pep Guardiola is sorry for Riyad Mahrez’s lack of minutes on the pitch of late and insists there is nothing wrong with the Algerian’s performances or attitude in training.
Mahrez, 27, is City’s club record signing but has not started a Premier League game since the 3-1 win over Southampton at the end of 2018, with his only starts coming in FA Cup and Carabao Cup games.
Guardiola, who may opt to start Mahrez in City’s FA Cup fifth round clash with Newport on Saturday, explained the situation with the former Leicester City star.
“I am the reason,” said Pep. “He [Mahrez] is not absolutely guilty or he doesn’t feel any special reason why. I am sad because he is training incredibly.
“He is an incredibly talented player but in that moment we have five strikers.
“For example the last games Leroy Sane hasn’t played. We have incredible players, like for example Bernardo and Raz in top, top form.
“That is the only reason why. There’s no particular reason, like being upset or something like that.
“He is a guy we are happy with, but unfortunately I am not kind with him, in the fact I cannot give him the minutes he deserves.
“So I’m sorry, that’s all I can say.”
Pep believes that if Mahrez was getting the same continuity as other forwards in the City squad, he would be just as good.
The City boss said: “I am unfair in the fact that if he had played the minutes that the others had played he would have been in the top level like the players who are playing.
“It’s not easy for one guy who does not play regularly to come in and play at a high, high level.
“He has a level but give him five or six games in a row playing he is going to play at the level of Sterling or Bernardo or the players who play. When he played four or five games in a row he was incredible, outstanding.
“I don’t have any doubts about his quality, just to keep going, not complain too much, move forward and fight more and more and more.
“His time is coming. It’s coming and I’m pretty sure he is going to play good.”