John Stones says City’s research on free-scoring Atalanta paid off, as Pep Guardiola’s men triumphed 5-1 to make it three wins from three in Group C.

A Raheem Sterling hat-trick, plus a Sergio Aguero brace, clinched victory on an entertaining night at the Etihad Stadium, cementing the Premier League Champions’ place atop the group.

The victory, clinched with a clinical second half performance, was marred only by a red card to the otherwise influential Phil Foden and an injury to Rodrigo, but Stones was pleased with the way his side nullified the Italians’ threat.

READ: Pep Guardiola delivers Rodrigo injury update

WATCH: Palace v City | Short highlights

“We came up against a difficult team,” he stated. “We did our research.

“We knew they were a really aggressive team and they started like that.

"We got a good goal at a good time, which put us back in the game, and then the lads did the rest of the work up top."

Alongside Kyle Walker and Nicolas Otamendi, Stones was one of several players to make their return from injury as the centre-back pairing were introduced from the bench.

As was the case in Saturday evening’s win over Crystal Palace, Guardiola opted to field midfielders Fernandinho and Rodrigo at the heart of defence before the Spaniard was forced off with what seemed to be a hamstring knock.

As he continues his return, Stones has been impressed with the duo’s defensive displays.

WATCH: Guardiola: 'Incredible' Foden still learning

“They're two top players playing in a position they're not used to,” he added.

“In his first season here, Rodri has slotted in brilliantly so credit to him, and credit to Dinho for helping him along.

"We work in it in training so we can adapt and we can almost play it blind - we know where everyone is on the pitch.  

“It's good to be back on the pitch on a personal note. Upset Rodri got an injury but we'll have to see how his injury is."

With a remarkable 11-minute treble, Sterling became the eighth English player to score a Champions League hat-trick, netting his twelfth goal in 13 Club games.

Ever humble, the forward explained patience was key to City’s success and admitted he should have scored four when he watched a late effort drag wide.

"It was difficult with them going man for man all over the pitch,” he reflected. “It was tough to get space but we had to stay patient, wait for a chance and take them when they came.

"I should have had four! Riyad Mahrez put me through and then I was looking round for him to see if he was anywhere close - I wanted to put one on a plate for him. But going through there I'be got to finish that. But i thought we were clinical. 

"We were clinical in both boxes. There's no point scoring goals if you let in easy ones. The penalty was disappointing but in this competition the good teams will punish you."