Soccer-City winger Mahrez given week off after AFCON, says Guardiola

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester City v Leicester City - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - December 26, 2021 Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez prepares to take a penalty REUTERS/Peter Powell

(Reuters) - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Algeria international Riyad Mahrez will not be involved in Saturday's Premier League trip to Southampton after being given a week off following his team's early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations.

Algeria captain Mahrez, 30, missed a penalty in Thursday's 3-1 defeat by Ivory Coast as the holders crashed out in the group stage of the tournament in Cameroon.

"He has a holiday for a week. After AFCON he has permission for one week off and will come back with the team next week," Guardiola told a news conference on Friday.

Guardiola added Nathan Ake will be back in the squad but Oleksandr Zinchenko will remain absent, after both players missed last week's win over Chelsea.

City, leading the league standings with 56 points, have not dropped a point since losing 2-0 to Crystal Palace back in October and will look for their 13th straight win when they travel to the south coast on Saturday.

Ralph Hasenhuettl's Southampton, who held City to a goalless draw earlier this season, have won only five times so far but Guardiola heaped praise on his counterpart and opponents ahead of the match.

"They have the best free-kick taker in the world," he said, referring to midfielder James Ward-Prowse. "As a set-piece taker, he is exceptional.

"The quality they have, the manager is exceptional, one of the best in the Premier League by far... It's always a tough game. Our players know we have an incredible challenge tomorrow."

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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