John Stones has been backed for a return to Manchester City’s first team by Joleon Lescott, who thinks the defender will still have plenty of opportunities to shine despite increased competition for places at Etihad Stadium.

He has, however, gradually fallen out of favour amid a string of niggling fitness issues, and only managed 16 top-flight appearances in total for the Manchester outfit in 2019-20.

Guardiola moved to bolster his defensive ranks in the summer transfer market after seeing his side knocked off their domestic perch by Liverpool, bringing in Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias from Bournemouth and Benfica respectively.

As a result, Stones has been restricted to just three senior appearances for City this season, with his latest outing coming from the bench during the3-0 win away at Marseille in the Champions League.

Lescott, who also joined City from Everton at the height of his playing career, was delighted to see the 26-year-old return to Europe’s biggest stage, and hopes he can force his way back into contention for regular minutes.

“I’m just glad to see him out there,” the ex-England centre-back told City’s official website. “Obviously it’s been a difficult time for him with injuries and minutes out on the pitch, so I’m grateful he’s back and fit again.

“I think when everybody is fit, Pep could potentially have a headache and he’ll have a decision to make.

“I think the fact he’d brought two centre-halves in this season inRuben Diasand NathanAkeis due to the fact that there hasn’t been a consistency in terms of fitness and form.

“Hopefully, he can see a partnership forming with Dias andAymericLaportethis season, but once again,Stonesis a top player and given the opportunities, hopefully, he can perform.”

Lescott added on the importance of rotation amid a congested fixture list:“I’m sure the incentive for the team is to get the job done and qualification confirmed as soon as possibly so players can be rotated and rested. It’s important that happens because there are so many games in such a short space of time.”

The former City star also offered anassessment of his old club’s win at Marseille, insisting Guardiola’s men looked back to their best after a mixed start to the season.

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