Aymeric Laporte Man City Sheffield United

Laporte responds to Guardiola's claim he's the world's best left-sided centre-back

Aymeric Laporte appreciated Pep Guardiola's assertion that he's the  world's best left-sided centre-back and admits it has been tough watching from the stands as Manchester City’s title defence has fallen flat.

The French defender made his return in Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory over Sheffield United after missing five months of the season with a knee injury.

Laporte made an instant impact in City’s defence as the champions kept their first clean sheet of 2020 and restricted the Blades to just one attempt on target.

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And while the defender acknowledged his manager's opinion that he's the very best centre-back around, he insists it's not for him to say.

“You would have to ask him about that, but I think it’s great to hear that from this manager because he’s one of the best in the world, if not the best,” Laporte said.

“I’m very happy to hear that, but I have to work to be this. I have to keep going to stay there [at the top].”

Despite the win over Sheffield United, City are still 13 points behind Liverpool having played two games more, with Guardiola conceding that the Reds' lead is too big to overcome this season.

And Laporte believes his side have to raise their game moving forward and try to get back to their title-winning form of the past two campaigns.

“I’m happy to be back on the field. It was very important for me to be back with the team, to be involved in everything,” he added. “I think it is a good day, we won the game and I’m very happy to be back.

“The last two years were very tough but this year other teams have improved and have made some transfers. Others have improved, and they have studied us, too.

“It gets more difficult every year so we have to stay focused, work a lot and concentrate, and be more like we have in the last two years, and try to win every single game.”

Laporte’s comeback to the first team was quicker than expected and he was taken off for the final 10 minutes at Bramall Lane as he started to tire.

There was one worrying moment early in the game when he was caught by a crude tackle by Mo Besic, with the City defender later  posting a tweet of the challenge with the caption: “I missed you too Premier League”.

City will be careful with his recovery but Laporte hopes to be in contention for next week’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester United.

“Normally I would have been [back] later,” the 25-year-old added. “I spoke with the manager and he told me he wanted me to play. I’m very happy to be back and to be part of the team again.

“You will have to ask the manager [about the derby] but I will be there, I will be there with the team. The manager will decide everything.”