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Football

Mahrez ready as Guardiola eyes winning start to new season

Pep Guardiola's champions face FA Cup winners Chelsea in the Community Shield on Sunday

Manchester City’s new signing Riyad Mahrez has shaken off an ankle knock picked up in pre-season and the forward could start Sunday’s Community Shield match against Chelsea, manager Pep Guardiola said.

Mahrez, who joined the Premier League champions on a five-year contract last month, was forced off the pitch after a tough challenge by Bayern Munich defender Chris Richards in their final pre-season clash in the United States.

“Mahrez is good. He had a little bit of pain but he trained day before yesterday. I think so (he can play on Sunday),” Guardiola told a news conference.

Spaniard Guardiola, who guided City to the Premier League and League Cup double last season, will not have the services of forward Raheem Sterling and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, with both players still not ready following the World Cup in Russia.

“Kevin and Sterling are not here but they will be back after the game on Sunday,” Guardiola added. “From Monday we will be back all together and think about what we have to do to keep last season’s level.”

City are looking to become the first team since their illustrious neighbours Manchester United to defend the top flight title. United achieved that feat a decade ago.

Standing in City’s way in their quest to begin the season with a trophy are FA Cup champions Chelsea, who have replaced manager Antonio Conte with compatriot and former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri.

“I am happy that he (Sarri) is here in the Premier League,” Guardiola said. “I will learn a lot to see his team every weekend. I saw three games. He gets it, the team in a short time plays like he wants.

“I think it will be a good game, always Chelsea is a big rival. Antonio was, Maurizio will be too. The style of play will be perfect for English football.”

City begin their league campaign with a trip to Arsenal on Aug. 12 while Chelsea travel to Huddersfield Town the previous day.

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