<
>

Pep Guardiola vows to nurture young John Stones at Manchester City

MANCHESTER -- Pep Guardiola will continue being nice with defender John Stones in a bid to turn him into the new Gerard Pique.

The Manchester City defender faced criticism in midweek for his performances for England with former England boss Glenn Hoddle claiming Stones was being over-indulged by Guardiola.

Stones' confidence at bringing the ball out of defence saw him lose possession on a couple of occasions during England's 3-0 win over Scotland in a World Cup qualifier.

But Guardiola is refusing to change the style he demands from his defenders, and says he will continue to help nurture the 22-year-old, who joined City from Everton for £47.5 million in the summer.

"I'm so nice with him! So nice!" Guardiola joked at his news conference ahead of City's game with Crystal Palace on Saturday. "With John, you cannot forget, he's young. He has to make a lot of mistake and I will do it in the nicest way possible, for sure.

"In his career, he only played one game a week and now he plays three games a week in places like the Nou Camp against Lionel Messi.

"For the international team, he didn't play one minute at the European Championships, now he plays 90 minutes, 90 minutes, 90 minutes. And of course he has to improve, but not now at the beginning.

"He's 22 years old, that's why my job is so nice to help him develop, to not discriminate in how he wants to play, to help him be more aggressive, how he has to drive to the ball, how he has to pass quicker."

Guardiola believes that Stones has the potential to be one of the best defenders in the world but must be given time to learn his game.

The former Barcelona manager drew comparisons with Pique, who initially struggled during his early career at Manchester United before moving to the Nou Camp where he has become a central figure in Barca's unprecedented domestic and European success.

"It's difficult for me to find at that age, one player with this personality -- this personality to play," Guardiola added.

"Sometimes you have to help him understand when he can do some things and in some other moments he cannot.

"Gerard Pique when he started here was quite similar. Gerard came here to Manchester and he started playing not so often, but through time he grew stronger. This does not happen in one day or one month, he needs time.

"I like working with him a lot because he tries to improve. He realises his mistakes, he knows he can be better. He's always available to help the team and the way he plays is special, strong in the air, defensively has good qualities."

Stones is expected to start at Palace and Guardiola also revealed that Vincent Kompany is fit enough to start at Selhurst Park.

However, the Spaniard said they must now address Kompany's psychological issues after he pulled out of Belgium's friendly with the Netherlands last week minutes before the kickoff.

The City captain has been dogged by persistent muscle injuries in recent seasons and Guardiola said they must help him regain confidence that he won't suffer problems each time he goes onto the pitch.

"We are working on him being free in his mind, the muscular issue is much better. We are working on that," Guardiola added.

"I spoke to Roberto Martinez, the Belgium national coach, on that. Vincent was ready to play the first game but he did not feel so comfortable so that is why Vincent decided not to play that game.

"He can start. He is close to helping us and we are working on recovering Vincent the best as possible."