Grealish can play in any game for Man City, insists Guardiola

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Jack Grealish has been left out of Manchester City's biggest matches in recent weeks purely due to tactical reasons, Pep Guardiola has explained.

Grealish, signed for a record-breaking £100million last off-season, has started just three of City's eight games so far in April.

The Premier League leaders bookend what has been a hectic month with a trip to Leeds United on Saturday, and may well start the match at Elland Road in second place, should Liverpool get a result against in-form Newcastle United.

Grealish featured from the off in last week's 5-1 rout of Watford, but did not play against Real Madrid in Tuesday's thrilling Champions League encounter as City won the first leg of their semi-final 4-3.

The 26-year-old also started against Burnley at the start of April and in the FA Cup semi-final to Liverpool, scoring City's first goal in a 3-2 defeat at Wembley. However, he was a substitute against the Reds in the 2-2 league draw on April 10, and only featured from the bench in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie with Atletico Madrid. He also did not appear against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Only Bruno Fernandes (77) created more chances from open play in the Premier League than Grealish (70) last season, with the England international managing to craft 42 goalscoring chances from open play for City across 22 top-flight appearances this term.

That is still the third-best figure in City's squad, behind Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva (both 52), and Guardiola has insisted the playmaker's recent omissions were purely tactical and not down to a disappointment in Grealish's level of performance.

"He can play," Guardiola replied when asked in a news conference why Grealish had been left out of the biggest matches.

"Nothing changes. In that position, in important games Riyad [Mahrez] gives something unique, special and Phil [Foden] is so determined, his will and his impact on the game is huge as well. Just for that reason.

"Raheem [Sterling], everybody knows how important he is for me. Always have the feeling with Phil and Riyad that the goal is there, they have the sense to score the goal.

"Sometimes you need more control, maybe Jack. Most of the time it is a tactical decision, not because I'm unsatisfied or that they're not playing good."

Jack Grealish has not found his best form so far at Manchester City
Jack Grealish has not found his best form so far at Manchester City

While Grealish could be in line to play against Leeds, Kyle Walker remains sidelined through injury, with Guardiola unsure if the full-back will return before the end of the season. John Stones will also be absent in West Yorkshire.

City did not beat Leeds in either match last season, drawing at Elland Road before losing to 10 men at the Etihad Stadium. Indeed, the Whites have lost just two of their last nine home league games against City (W6 D1), doing so in consecutive meetings in December 1995 (0-1) and September 2000 (1-2).

But City did win the reverse fixture 7-0 this season and are looking to complete their first league double over Leeds since 1981-82. Guardiola, though, knows Jesse Marsch's team, who are five points clear of the relegation zone after a five-game unbeaten run that has included three victories, stand in the way of what could be a crucial win.

"Last season we dropped five points against Marcelo [Bielsa]," he said. "Jesse Marsch did an incredible job in Salzburg, [RB] Leipzig wasn't the perfect place maybe, but many teams in England play that way, I have a lot of respect.

"This is the most important game that we have for the position we will be in between the Champions League games, after Madrid we have just four games all in the league. We accept the challenge, know exactly what we have to do and we will try to do it."

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