Manchester City’s Guardiola declares love for Mahrez despite benching him against Liverpool

Riyad Mahrez, Pep Guardiola - Manchester CityGetty Images

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has declared he is in love with Riyad Mahrez despite benching him for the Liverpool Premier League game on Sunday.

Mahrez came on in the second half for Raheem Sterling in the 75th minute after Guardiola made three changes to the squad that played in the midweek clash against Atletico Madrid. Nathan Ake, Mahrez, and Ilkay Gundogan dropped out as Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus, and Kyle Walker started.

"I'm in love with Riyad [Mahrez]; he is an incredible player and person. Today [Sunday], we thought we needed a different quality upfront. We will need him until the end," Guardiola said as he also praised the way they played and drew 2-2 against the Reds.

"I'm really happy with the way we played. We played well [in the] first half, it was tough for 10 minutes in the second half, but that is normal when you concede.

"They have quality and a lot of threats, but we performed well. It is football, these things happen. How many managers say, 'in the last minutes, we can't concede', we can concede until the referee blows the whistle."

Mahrez failed to put the Citizens in front in the dying moments of the game as he sent his effort over the bar -with Alisson Becker stranded off his line – after he had been located in a promising goal-scoring position by Kevin De Bruyne.

The Belgian midfielder, however, defended his Algerian teammate despite the big miss.

"[Mahrez] chose to chip the keeper. If it goes in, it’s a wonder goal, but it didn’t go in and that can happen," De Bruyne, who scored his 11th league goal of the season, said in his post-match comments.

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The 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium means both Premier League games between the hosts and the Merseyside side this season have ended as draws, the first time they've shared a draw in both league meetings in a season since 2012-13.

Additionally, the Reds are now winless in five league matches against the Citizens (D3 L2), their joint-longest run without a victory against them along with a five-game run between November 2011 and December 2013.

The results mean the reigning Premier League champions remain at the top of the table with one point separating them from the Reds with seven matches to go.