City winger Mahrez given week off after AFCON, says Guardiola

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Algeria international Riyad Mahrez will not be involved in Saturday’s Premier League trip to Southampton after being given a week off following his team’s early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Algeria captain Mahrez, 30, missed a penalty in Thursday’s 3-1 defeat by Ivory Coast as the holders crashed out in the group stage of the tournament in Cameroon.

“He has a holiday for a week. After AFCON he has permission for one week off and will come back with the team next week,” Guardiola told a news conference on Friday.

Guardiola added Nathan Ake will be back in the squad but Oleksandr Zinchenko will remain absent, after both players missed last week’s win over Chelsea.

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City, leading the league standings with 56 points, have not dropped a point since losing 2-0 to Crystal Palace back in October and will look for their 13th straight win when they travel to the south coast on Saturday.

Ralph Hasenhuettl’s Southampton, who held City to a goalless draw earlier this season, have won only five times so far but Guardiola heaped praise on his counterpart and opponents ahead of the match.

“They have the best free-kick taker in the world,” he said, referring to midfielder James Ward-Prowse. “As a set-piece taker, he is exceptional.

“The quality they have, the manager is exceptional, one of the best in the Premier League by far… It’s always a tough game. Our players know we have an incredible challenge tomorrow.”