MANCHESTER: Riyad Mahrez has been cleared to play for Manchester City in the champions’ opening Premier League game at West Ham on Saturday after passing a drugs test with the UK Anti-Doping Agency.
Mahrez was left out of City’s squad for the Community Shield match against Liverpool last Sunday as they awaited medical documentation following surgery he had in Algeria after his country’s Africa Cup of Nations triumph.
That paperwork eventually arrived, while the winger had a successful drugs test when UKAD officials made a visit to City’s training ground during the week.
“Riyad made a little surgery on his nose after the Africa Cup of Nations,” City manager Pep Guardiola told reporters on Friday.
“It is a normal situation, but the doctor, not from the national team, did not send the necessary paperwork. We did not have it at the right moment.
“But after last week, anti-doping have made the test. Everything is clear and fine. He can play.
“Every time you take something, you have to inform the club and make a list. Everyone knows that.
“We didn’t have it at that moment as he did it in Algeria. We had to be careful, so it was better not to use him. It was a precaution.”
Mahrez’s availability is welcome news as Guardiola prepares for a long spell without Leroy Sane.
The German winger suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury to his right leg against Liverpool and he will be out for at least six months.
His absence means Mahrez will move up the pecking order in City’s attack as he begins his second season at the club.
At times last year, the former Leicester player struggled to make an impact, but Guardiola has reviewed his contribution over the close-season.
‘He is going to play’
“Riyad is not a substitute for Leroy. But I viewed a few of Riyad’s performances again over the summer and I was quite impressed,” he said.
“He didn’t play too much because in his position we had one of the best players in the league in Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling.
“But now with Leroy absent, we have a lot of games and one less forward player, so he is going to play.”
Mahrez was City’s record signing when he joined from Leicester 12 months ago and scored 12 goals in 44 appearances in his debut campaign.
That tag now belongs to Rodri after City met his £62 million (US$77 million) release clause from Atletico Madrid in the transfer window.
The 23-year-old Spain midfielder is expected to make his league debut at the London Stadium and Guardiola is not worried about him needing too much time to adjust to football in England.
“Rodri is a typical holding midfielder like Michael Carrick or Sergio Busquets,” Guardiola said.
“He doesn’t play to make a good performance, he plays to make it better for the others.
“He has no tattoos, no pony-tail, perfect. That is a holding midfielder.
“He’s young, he’s strong, he will help us on the long balls. He has learned many defensive things under Diego Simeone at Atletico and he is going to help us a lot this season.
“Sometimes players need time, but I realised after a week or 10 days, this guy is going to be nice for us.”