Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez passed a UK Anti-Doping drug test this week and is free to play against West Ham on Saturday after medication confusion.
Mahrez was left out of Sunday’s Community Shield penalty shootout win over Liverpool after City’s club doctors were unsure whether a sinus substance the winger had taken flouted doping rules.
Sportsmail revealed on Thursday that the 28-year-old underwent a private procedure on his nose in between Algeria’s Africa Cup of Nations triumph and him re-joining Pep Guardiola’s squad.
Guardiola confirmed that yesterday, citing the surgery was to aid the player’s breathing and he revealed UKAD had travelled to the City Football Academy to test Mahrez on the back of the City manager’s comments.
‘The doctor – not from the national team – didn’t send the necessary (paperwork),’ Guardiola said.
‘It was a precaution, we had to be careful. It was better not to use him. This week they (UKAD) came and tested him and he’s ready.
‘Every time you take something you have to inform the club and make the lists. Everyone knows that. Everything is clear and fine and everything is fine. He can play.’ Ilkay Gundogan – who signed a new four-year contract yesterday – had a similar surgery last summer and then wore a mask to play.
Mahrez has only been back training for a week and appears unlikely to start at the London Stadium but his availability is a major boost for Guardiola, who is now without Leroy Sane for up to seven months.
Tests showed a collision with Trent Alexander-Arnold caused Sane to suffer an anterior cruciate ligament at Wembley last weekend. The prognosis is not good and Guardiola spoke about the Germany international – who Bayern Munich tracked all summer – returning in ‘February or March’. Sane will have surgery in Barcelona next week.
‘I didn’t think about him leaving,’ Guardiola added. ‘I’ve always said the same, he is our player and he never told me he wanted to leave. I always thought he was ours.
‘All the people will help him. He will feel alone and we help him to feel as comfortable as possible.’ Bayern had already balked at the £135million price tag slapped on Sane, who has two years left to run on his contract at the Etihad Stadium.
The 23-year-old’s absence offers Mahrez an opportunity to impress and earn more game time after a stop-start debut season at City. He became frustrated at a lack of starts but will be used more often this campaign. Sane’s absence will see the Premier League champions play with inverted wingers.
‘We don’t have the quality of Leroy,’ Guardiola added. ‘(Raheem) Sterling has it a little bit but you can’t find it around the world, that attacking the space, that speed.
‘Riyad doesn’t have it but he’s not a substitute for Leroy. I was quite impressed, he didn’t play too much because of Bernardo (Silva) and Sterling but with Leroy absent we have more space, a lot of games, one less forward player so he is going to play. The way they are training I’ll try to let everyone play.’
David Silva was announced as City’s new captain, succeeding Vincent Kompany, who left to become player-manager at Anderlecht. Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero form the team’s ‘leadership group,’ working alongside the veteran midfielder.
Guardiola has seen added steel in training as they gun for a third consecutive league title.
‘We spoke about mentality (but why should I doubt them after what they’ve done. In China they did it and this week especially, in training they are so focused.
‘That isn’t a guarantee to win games but without that it’s impossible. The most confidence I have is when I see them alive. When I see that I can see we will be competitors.’