Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says it would be unfair to drop defensive duo Ruben Dias and John Stones, and has urged Aymeric Laporte to keep pushing for a return.
Dias and Stones put in an assured display in Saturday's 0-0 draw with Manchester United, City's third successive clean sheet in the Premier League.
Laporte has not started in the league since City's 2-0 defeat to Tottenham on November 21.
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"There are players that – if I drop them or they're not even in the squad – it would not be fair to them," Guardiola told the club's website. "That's why sometimes I have to handle the balance of the team.
Laporte deserves to be in the team but Stones and Dias also deserve to be in the team. They played incredibly well in the last games – they did not make a single mistake.
"Laporte will be back. The season is long. What the players have to do is work harder, better ... and the moment will come. When that moment comes, they need to give a good performance."
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Guardiola also said striker Sergio Aguero is nearing full fitness but will not be rushed back into action.
"He was fit (for the United game) but not selected. With Sergio, it's one step at a time," the Spaniard added.
"He had one week's training after four months out. Hopefully, he can come back and train and get as many minutes as soon as possible."
City are ninth in the Premier League with 19 points from 11 games and host West Brom on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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