Mens Team

Stones: We have to step up for the injured players

Stones: We have to step up for the injured players
John Stones says the City squad owe it to their injured teammates to produce their very best performances.

Pep Guardiola’s men have travelled to Italy to face Atalanta in Matchday Four of the Champions League, needing a win to secure qualification to the knock-out stages.

READ: Atalanta v City | Travelling squad

WATCH: Tunnel Cam | Guardiola's half-time team talk

With several players absent through injury – and Phil Foden suspended – much of the pre-match discussion has queried who will start for the Premier League Champions with Sunday’s crunch clash with Liverpool looming – but Stones asserts that whoever is picked, every member of the squad should be inspired by those who are out of contention.

“We’ve all got to step us as players and fight for our positions and our teammates,” he said.

“We need to play for the players who are injured. We need to keep working hard every day in training and setting the standard for everyone.

"That's what brought us success last season - how much we trained on  things, how much we pushed each other as teammates, fighting for positions.

"We have to take responsibility as individuals and as a team.”

Reflecting on his own spell on the sidelines, which saw the centre-back miss nine of ten games between August and October – returning for the trip to Norwich before suffering another injury – Stones admitted he has endured a tough period, but is hoping to push on now and cement a place in the line of defence.

“It’s been difficult getting injured,” he conceded. “It was difficult because it’s me out of the team; not being able to be there for the team and be selected by the manager.

“I’m trying to stay as fit and healthy as I can now and get a run of games when called upon to try and do my best for the team and for myself.

“I feel good again; I feel fit and I need to stay like this for as long as I can – for the rest of the season, hopefully.”

In Stones’ absence (amongst others), Guardiola has been forced to employ a makeshift centre-back pairing, utilising Fernandinho and Rodrigo in the home victory over Atalanta.

Stones has been impressed with the way his teammates have adapted to their stand-in roles.

“I’m massively impressed for the likes of Fernandinho,” he continued. “He’s played in numerous positions and played as if he’s played there his whole career.

“That’s the great mentality that he’s got and the rest of the lads as well.

“If asked to play different positions, it’s never second-guessed – the lads are always doing it.

“That’s credit to them and it’s something that people should look at and young kids especially: be inspired and take that upon themselves.

“It’s about helping the team and not putting yourself first sometimes and definitely, the likes of Fernandinho and Rodrigo have done that and exceeded in my opinion.”

Stones also shares a close bond with fellow defender and Man of the Moment Kyle Walker, who netted a late winner in Saturday’s thrilling triumph over Southampton.

The Barnsley-born 25-year-old spoke of his delight for his teammate’s achievement, adding he felt the victory was just reward for a dominant City display.

“I think in that instance, it was something that we deserved,” he declared.

“For the way we played; the way a lot of things went against us, the opposition trying to waste time in every aspect… but the football did the talking for us – the tempo we played at, how aggressive we were in every aspect and the fact we kept trying right until the end.

“That shows the mentality of the squad.

“For Kyle, it was something that he wouldn’t really do with his left foot! He’s been proud about it all week and rightly so.

“Everyone is chipping in to get the three points and that’s what mattered at the weekend. That’s what matters every game – the mentality of the lads through those difficult situations of the game.

“We got the three points and everyone is chipping in to help us get that.”

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