Pep Guardiola has backed Jack Grealish to show his best form this season, with the Manchester City record signing in contention to return for the trip to face his former side Aston Villa.
City travel to Villa Park for Wednesday’s Premier League match, which will mark Grealish’s return to his former stomping ground. The attacking midfielder rose through the ranks at Villa before going on to become their captain and, eventually, record sale.
Grealish joined City this summer after they paid his £100m release clause. It was a difficult decision to leave his boyhood club, but the opportunity was too good to turn down.
The results since have been mixed on an individual level for the England international. Grealish has two goals and three assists from his first 15 appearances for Man City.
He will have to prove his fitness to feature against his former team on Wednesday, with Guardiola confirming he will be tested to see if he can travel after only returning to team training one day ago.
Analysing the way Grealish has started at City, Guardiola gave a positive assessment.
He told a press conference: “He started perfectly. It’s easy because he knows many English players and the other guys are nice people.
“Not a problem, he plays good. He needs to finish to settle and needs time.
“If you analyse games, he doesn’t play bad. The quality he has is difficult to play bad.
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“The way we played and expectations. It’s different to what he lives in Birmingham. He did incredibly well there, his commitment to the club. Going to the second division to not leave and to stay and get promoted, then stay in the first season and what Villa did last season.
“Now this break come back from England injured, hopefully he comes back and step by step finds his best form.”
It is obviously taking time for Grealish to adapt to new surroundings after such a lengthy spell with Villa. But Guardiola batted away a question that City would have to wait until next season to see the best of their £100m man.
He replied: “I don’t think so. We have six seven months ahead of us, all the nice things. I don’t think the best Jack Grealish we see next season, I want to see it this season.”
Pep Guardiola addresses Man City ’emergency’
In addition to the question mark over Grealish, Kevin De Bruyne is in doubt due to a lack of training despite testing negative for Covid-19.
There is also the absence of Aymeric Laporte in defence and a doubt about Phil Foden.
Guardiola is therefore concerned about a lack of options, even if he trusts all those who remain available to him.
He added: “We are in an emergency in the squad. We have few people. Aymer is out, we have to come back.
“Never complain or miss the players who are out with injuries, red cards for any reason. I trust a lot all the squad; if one is out another comes.
“December is the toughest month of the year. We are in real trouble because we have few players.
“Kevin is back but needs time to be fit. All the people who had Covid say it drains them and need time and Kevin needs time and to be fit to show his form.
“Phil and Jack are still in the same situation, maybe tomorrow they can play but not a lot of minutes. I don’t know.
“We are in a difficult position because a lot of players play a lot of minutes. We are going to see after they train today and the rest we have just 14, 15 players.”