Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has issued a public apology to Riyad Mahrez after denying the Algeria international five Premier League appearances already this year, admitting that it's his fault the former Leicester City star has been left out.
The 27-year-old winger has made just two league appearances since the turn of the year, getting a five-minute cameo appearance against Arsenal before registering 20 minutes at the end of their 6-0 win against Chelsea.
Mahrez's recent form for the Citizens has been called into question and many believe that it's the reason he is being left out by Guardiola.
But the Manchester City boss refuses to put any blame at Mahrez's feet, instead insisting that the forward is simply being left out due to the form of the club's other attacking players.
"I am the reason [he has not played]. He is absolutely not guilty," Guardiola said, quoted by Sky Sports. "I am sad because he is training incredibly. He is an incredibly talented player but at this moment we have five strikers. In the last games, Leroy [Sané] hasn't played.
the more I think about this, the more I'm coming around to the idea that it's just infinitely cooler to be the star at a smaller club than it is to be one of many stars at a huge club. Riyad Mahrez's 15/16 season with Leicester is another example— ty (@finalthrd) February 7, 2019
"We have incredible players, like for example Bernardo [Silva] and Raz [Sterling] in top, top form and that is the only reason why. There's no particular reason, like being upset or something like that.
"He is a guy we are happy with but unfortunately I am not kind with him. In fact, I cannot give him the minutes he deserves, so I'm sorry. That's all I can say."
Mahrez could be in line for a third consecutive start in the FA Cup on Saturday when Manchester City look to avoid another upset when they travel to South Wales to take on Newport County.