Ilkay Gundogan welcomed the return to fitness of Benjamin Mendy as “a big boost” for Manchester City at a time when the club are without two key defenders.
Aymeric Laporte and John Stones missed City’s 3-0 Champions League Group C victory over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday with injuries and Pep Guardiola moved Fernandinho into central defence alongside Nicolas Otamendi.
Mendy came on as a second-half substitute to make his first appearance since City’s Champions League quarter-final elimination to Tottenham in April and Gundogan highlighted the importance of his return.
“It was great to see Benjamin back and it is a big boost for us,” Gundogan told the club’s official website.
“Having him available again will be great for the team because we have missed him for the past five months and it’s also good for him.
“His fitness will improve as he gets some more game time and last night was an important step forward for him.
“We have lost a number of players recently, so having an important member of the squad return is just what we needed.
“We are competing in so many competitions and every player has a part to play so I’m really happy to see him return.”
on a more serious note this time, I’ve missed this feeling so much.. I hope no one will ever question my love for this game, I will always give it all for the team & the people who trust in me (and the injury jokes are not original anymore) thx for your support pic.twitter.com/vlcS9lHVKb
— Benjamin Mendy (@benmendy23) September 18, 2019
Gundogan made his fourth start of the season against Shakhtar and put in an impressive performance as he played the full 90 minutes of the win.
After playing a role in Riyad Mahrez opening the scoring, Gundogan got City’s second and spent the game pulling the strings alongside Kevin De Bruyne and Rodri in midfield.
He gave a modest assessment of his own performance while looking ahead to City’s clash with Watford on Saturday, when they will hope to bounce back from a 3-2 defeat at Norwich City in their last Premier League outing.
“I’m happy but I know I can still improve,” said Gundogan. “It was good to get a goal and also play the full 90 minutes because I think I needed that.
“It helps me, it helps the team and it helps everyone because we wanted to respond quickly.
“As you can imagine, the defeat at Norwich was very hard to take for us, that’s why beating Shakhtar was even more important and we can take this win into Saturday’s game against Watford which is already very close.”
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