Guardiola claims Stones ‘was not ready’ for Arsenal clash after injury blow

The England defender was one of nine home players to retain their Premier League starting berths for a heavyweight fourth-round clash on Friday night, with the manager keeping changes to a minimum in a bid to progress and deal a potentially key psychological blow ahead of a massive top-flight showdown between the respective title rivals next month.

Stones was troubled by the direct running and trickery of Arsenal’s full debutant Leandro Trossard in a lively affair at the Etihad Stadium, having been left exposed on occasion by a lack of cover provided by teenage right-back Rico Lewis.

A tough night for the 28-year-old was compounded shortly before half-time, when he appeared to suffer a right hamstring injury during another tussle with Trossard near the byline.

Stones received treatment but it was quickly clear that he could not continue, limping off to be replaced by Aymeric Laporte, who had originally been replaced in the starting lineup by eventual match-winner Nathan Ake.

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Stones now looks set for another spell on the sidelines after his latest injury setback, with City facing a decisive month that begins with a trip to Tottenham and includes that mammoth meeting with Arsenal on February 15 as well as the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Bundesliga contenders RB Leipzig.

“I don’t know (how serious it is),” Guardiola said when asked for an update on Stones’ condition after the 1-0 win over Arsenal sealed by Ake’s fine second-half finish. “Today he was not ready. I saw it from the first minutes.

“Maybe he was tired but he was not ready and when this happens you get injured.”

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