Fernandinho has backed youngsters CJ Egan-Riley and Lucas Mbete to perform if required in the absence of the injured Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ruben Dias as Manchester City seek to retain the Premier League title.
Dias was forced out of Sunday’s 5-0 win over Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium due to a hamstring injury and Pep Guardiola later stated he, Stones and Walker will not play for City in the remaining three matches of the season.
While Fernandinho replaced Dias, the 19-year-old Egan-Riley made his league debut as an 87th-minute substitute for Aymeric Laporte. Mbete, who is 18, was an unused member of the matchday squad and has yet to play in the Premier League.
Nathan Ake’s ankle problem makes the defender a serious doubt for Wednesday’s trip to Wolves meaning one of Egan-Riley or Mbete may be under consideration to start, although Guardiola’s options include moving Rodri from midfield into his rearguard
“We have some injury issues now and at the end of the season that is normal,” said Fernandinho. “It is a pleasure for me to see some of the young lads coming in and playing because they have an opportunity to play with us [now] and we know what they are capable of. They show every day in every [training] session that they can play for Manchester City first team – he [Egan-Riley] got his opportunity to play a few minutes and I’m delighted for him.”
City are three points ahead of Liverpool, who also have three games left, with a superior goal difference of four, and Fernandinho was pleased with their display against Newcastle in light of their heartbreaking Champions League semi-final defeat to Real Madrid a few days earlier.
“Yes, it was a great response but at the same time we are focusing on ourselves and know the title is in our hands,” said the Brazilian. “It doesn’t matter what they [Liverpooll] do over there, we have to keep going. This is what we are trying to do, focus on ourselves but I thought it was a great response after defeat in Madrid, especially for our fans and ourselves because when you lose a match like this the confidence can go a little bit down. But not just the result, the performance overall was really good and we are really happy about that.”
If City do retain the championship it will be Fernandinho’s fifth for a club he plans on leaving in the summer. “Every title is sweet,” he said. “It’s going to be one more – with a little more sugar.”