Foden at centre-back? Guardiola says Man City star defensive trio are out for the season

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Pep Guardiola revealed Manchester City will be without three key defenders for the Premier League title run-in and joked Phil Foden might have to step in at the back.

Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ruben Dias have been ruled out for the rest of the season due to injury, with Dias forced off at half-time against Newcastle United on Sunday with a muscle problem.

City won 5-0 and were dominant against a sluggish Newcastle side, but there are testing away games at Wolves and West Ham to come for Guardiola's team, before they round off their campaign at home to Aston Villa.

A three-point lead over second-placed Liverpool could come under threat if the situation becomes any worse.

Aymeric Laporte was partnered in central defence by veteran Fernandinho for the second half of the one-sided Newcastle clash, after which Guardiola told a media conference the news about Walker, Stones and Dias.

"In this situation it is not a problem. If Rodri has to play in that position it is not a problem, or if it's someone from the academy," Guardiola said.

Guardiola had earlier told Sky Sports: "If Phil Foden has to play as a central defender, he will play as a central defender."

Asked if that could really happen, Guardiola replied: "No."

Foden the attacker would be an obvious misfit in the backline, and City will hope they do not have excessive defending to do over the closing fortnight of the campaign. Wolves away is the next test, at Molineux on Wednesday.

Guardiola said City were "outstanding" and delivered a "perfect" display against Newcastle, four days after their agonising Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid.

Man City 5-0 Newcastle
Man City 5-0 Newcastle

"With what this team have done, did you have any doubts?" Guardiola said.

"We've been five years doing this, every three days. If some people doubt us, it's because they still don't know this team and what it is able to do.

"I'm not talking about winning or losing. It's not about one afternoon or one night. How many years, being there every three days, every time."

City have scored five or more goals in a Premier League game 30 times in the Guardiola era now.

Newcastle, meanwhile, are winless in 32 away games in the competition against teams starting the day inside the top two places in the table (D4 L28) since beating second-placed Arsenal at Highbury in December 2001.

City chief Guardiola was unsure why critics, including former players, might question the character in his ranks.

"It's one of the best groups I've ever trained in my life," Guardiola said.

"We passed through two tough days, but today we spoke for the first time [since Madrid] and I said, 'You have a perfect life, in the perfect club'.

"We are three points up front, nine points to play for, goal difference four goals ahead. Another final on Wednesday."

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