Manchester City travel to face Leicester City on Saturday as they return to Premier League action following the international break.
Whilst having a two-week break from action after back-to-back 5-0 wins was not the ideal situation for Pep Guardiola, it has given some of his players time to get themselves fit and firing to be ready for selection.
John Stones was a crucial member of the team at centre-back next to Ruben Dias last season, but is yet to make his first appearance in the Premier League this term. Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte have filled in alongside the Portuguese beast, but now could be the time for Guardiola to bring in the England international for his first start of the 2021/22 campaign.
The £100k-per-week enforcer started two of England’s three games over the international break, with his side conceding once in those two matches. This shows that he picked up some valuable minutes ahead of his return to Manchester, which could put him in good stead for a start having been left on the bench against Spurs and Arsenal and omitted from the matchday squad against Norwich (Transfermarkt).
Bringing Stones into the starting line-up could help to deal with the threat of Leicester striker Jamie Vardy. The Foxes forward has scored two goals in three games this season and ended the previous campaign with 15 league strikes.
In the 2020/21 campaign, Laporte averaged a SofaScore rating of 6.99 and won 66% of his duels in the Premier League. Stones averaged a score of 7.22 and won 70% of his duels in the top flight, suggesting that he is the superior option for Guardiola out of the two centre-backs as he proved over the course of an entire league season.
Therefore, the 27-year-old could be the man to come in and deal with Vardy, with the help of Dias, on Saturday. Vardy is renowned for his speed and Stones is no slouch. The former Everton defender’s return could be a huge boost if he is able to recapture his form from last season to make an impact against the Foxes, helping to keep Vardy quiet throughout the afternoon at the King Power Stadium.
This is why Guardiola must hand him a start and offer him the chance to show that he is capable of continuing his fine form from 2020/21 and carrying it over to the current campaign. Whilst it may be harsh on Laporte, the full-time result against Leicester will hopefully prove that it is the correct decision.