Gary Neville: These two players will cost Manchester City the Premier League title

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 03: John Stones of Manchester City celebrates victory after the Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool FC at the Etihad Stadium on January 3, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United right-back Gary Neville has warned Pep Guardiola that the center-back pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones will cost Manchester City the Premier League trophy. 

The former Everton center-back Stones, 25, partnered alongisde Otamendi during Manchester City’s shock 3-2 defeat at the hands of newly promoted Norwich City at the weekend.

Pep Guardiola was forced to include the pairing in his starting XI as the departure of Vincent Kompany in the summer and the recent injury suffered by Aymeric Laporte left him with no other options.

However, starting from the Otamendi mistake which gifted Norwich City their second goal of the game, the pair failed to prove right the trust their manager had vested in him.

Saturday’s defeat means City have lost to a newly promoted side for the first time since 2014 when they were defeated by Premier League newcomers Burnley.  The reigning Premier League Champions now sit 5-points adrift of league leaders Liverpool.

Neville: Otamendi and Stones will cost Manchester City the title

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Nicolas Otamendi of Manchester City looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Everton FC at Etihad Stadium on December 15, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Speaking at Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football, Neville commented that City’s title chances will be seriously hurt if Pep Guardiola continues to play the defensive pairing of Stones and Otamendi.

“Guardiola gave up on this partnership 18 months ago when Laporte came to the club,” Neville said. “Otamendi always gets caught out as a centre-back and quickens up the opposition in attack. He’s so not a Pep Guardiola type centre-back, they’re usually composed but he’s rash.

“Sir Alex Ferguson at times during his Manchester United career would see a game too far with players and say, ‘that’s it, you’re done’. Manchester City’s 4-3 defeat at Liverpool in 2018 was the game when Guardiola decided that Stones and Otamendi couldn’t play together.

“Laporte’s injury, Vincent Kompany leaving and not replacing him is a big problem for Manchester City. Stones and Otamendi have played 25 games under Guardiola in the Premier League.

“That will cost Manchester City the Premier League title. If these two play together at their current rate of performance they won’t win the league,” said the former English international.


City face Shakhtar Donetsk next


Assuming that the duo would have something to say in response to the criticism, both John Stones and Otamendi can do their talking on the pitch during Manchester City’s Champions League opener on Wednesday.

The reigning Premier League champions have been handed an easy group in  Europe’s elite competition.

Apart from Shaktar Donetsk, who will play hosts to them on Wednesday, the other two sides in City’s group are Atlanta and Dinamo Zagreb.

There have been reports that the Abu-Dhabi based group which owns Manchester City prize Champions League above all other trophies, as that’s the only one which the club hasn’t won till date.

Pep Guardiola would be hoping to do just that and there are signs that City could go all the way this season after being dumped out of the competition by Tottenham Hotspur at the quarter-final stage in the last campaign. With both Real Madrid and Barcelona in turmoil, the English teams have a huge chance to lift the trophy in Istanbul next May.

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