Pep Guardiola backs Phillips to make his mark after slow City start

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Kalvin Phillips is yet to start for Manchester City but could earn the opportunity against Southampton in the EFL Cup.

Pep Guardiola is confident Kalvin Phillips can find his stride after a slow start to his career at Manchester City.

In December, Guardiola said the England international had returned from the World Cup “overweight” and “not in the right shape for training”, with Phillips yet to find his feet at the Etihad Stadium after his move from Leeds United.

Six games this season have come off the bench, including 32 minutes in Sunday’s FA Cup win over Chelsea – only the second time he has played more than 15 minutes for the club.

It has been reported that Phillips will make his long-awaited first start for the club against Southampton, and although he has not confirmed whether this is true, Guardiola expects him to reach the level City require.

“He is always ready. He needed a bit of time, but he is ready,” Guardiola told reporters on Tuesday.

“We have to see [whether he starts] but he’s an intelligent and level-headed midfielder. He’s got an incredible work ethic, he trained at Leeds under Marcelo [Bielsa].

“He’s committed every game, there are patterns and movements that take time and games. He came in and had an injury that meant he couldn’t be there, but step by step he’ll get there.”

Guardiola also feels they face Southampton under Nathan Jones so they must adapt to the new approach their opponents adopt.

“It’s an away game, so of course it would be better at home. They are in a difficult position, they have a new manager and they are still getting used to it,” he added.

“We knew Ralph [Hasenhuttl’s] style of play and now they have a changed style and different patterns, so we will have to adapt to that. We have to do our best to get to the semi-finals.”

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