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Fernandinho the unsung hero in City's dazzling start

Among a dazzling array of midfield options, it is the often unheralded Fernandinho who Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has relied on most in another stunning start to the season for the Premier League champions.

The Brazilian will face old club Shakhtar Donetsk tomorrow morning (Singapore time) as City seek to make amends from the only blip of their campaign, a shock 2-1 defeat by Lyon in their last Champions League home game.

If any reminder was needed over Guardiola's influence, he was banned from the touchline that night. Since his return, City have won nine and drawn one, a 0-0 stalemate away to Liverpool, of their last 10 games, scoring 29 goals and conceding just two in the process.

GROUP F
MAN CITY SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Although fulsome in his praise of the maturing centre-back pairing Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, Guardiola's defensive philosophy is dependent on a team effort to keep the ball as far away from City's goal as possible.

"Always we try to convince our players as far away the ball is from our goal, we are safe. It's much, much better. The moment the ball is around our box, anything can happen," said Guardiola this week.

"In 10 years, I was always concerned, always focused, maybe more than any other thing, in defending well.

"The only difference is we do it far away from our goal."

Central to that philosophy is Fernandinho's ability to not just read the game and quickly regain possession, but also use the ball soundly as a springboard to City's attack.

"There is always a relation. When you attack good, you defend well. When you defend well and are solid, you attack better," added Guardiola.

The Spaniard added at last night's press conference that midfielder Ilkay Guendogan and defender Nicolas Otamendi are in contention to play, leaving only Kevin de Bruyne, Claudio Bravo and Eliaquim Mangala as absentees. - AFP

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