City manager Pep Guardiola labelled Aleksandar Kolarov’s centre-back performance in Saturday’s win over Sunderland as “one of the best” he has seen.
The Serbia international, normally deployed at left-back, was handed a central starting role in the absence of usual centre-halves Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi.
Guardiola said he was impressed by Kolarov’s pre-season performances in the role and believed he demonstrated a complete performance at the heart of City’s defence in Saturday’s 2-1 victory.
He said: “I think Kolarov today had one of the best performances I have seen in a central defender.
“He won all the long balls, he was quality with passes and he was strong. Kolarov not just today but in the last few games played really well [at centre-back]."
Despite heaping praise on Kolarov, the manager said he hopes the “important” Otamendi will return for City’s Champions League qualifying game at Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday.
Guardiola cited the Romanian side’s tendency to play long balls as the reason why he wants the Argentine stopper back for the pivotal tie.
“Hopefully he can play. Steaua Bucharest play with long balls and of course Nico is so important,” he stated.
“He had a little problem with his tendon and I could not risk two games in just three days, so that’s why I decided to play with John Stones and Kolarov.”