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Riyad Mahrez Set for Early Manchester City Return Following Algeria Exit From Africa Cup of Nations

Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez suffered a disappointing exit from the Africa Cup of Nations on Thursday, as Algeria fell to a 3-1 defeat against Ivory Coast in their final group-stage clash of the tournament.

Riyad Mahrez's desire to avoid a premature return to Manchester could not be fulfilled as Algeria suffered their third group-stage loss to surrender their Africa Cup of Nations crown after a disappointing tournament for Djamel Belmadi's side.

While Manchester City have not overly missed the former Leicester man in their recent victories against Swindon Town and Chelsea, Pep Guardiola has been handed a welcome boost ahead of what will be a quick-fire run of games at the start of February.

The Premier League leaders have been relentless in pursuit of their fourth league title under Guardiola since their surprise 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace in October, going on a 12-game winning run to open up a 11-point lead at the top of the pile with 16 league games left to play.

Chelsea have been the only side, besides Manchester City, to have avoided fixture postponements because of absentees due to COVID-19 amid the recent rise of positive cases across England's top-flight. 

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Despite suffering from a major COVID-19 outbreak amongst the first-team bubble following their New Year's Day triumph over Arsenal, which saw seven first-team players and 23 backroom staff members enter isolation, Manchester City have played to their strengths and kept bagging win after win.

Mahrez, who finished top of the scoring charts for Manchester City over the course of 2021, has been the top-scorer for the Sky Blues across all competitions since the start of the campaign, having scored 13 goals in the absence of a natural striker in the first-team squad.

Regardless of the fact that the league leaders are showing no signs of slowing down, with games against Fulham, Brentford, Norwich City and the first-leg of the Champions League Round of 16 tie with Sporting Lisbon coming up, Mahrez will again be a key weapon in attack for Guardiola.

Manchester City will hope to continue their incredible winning streak in the Premier League when they travel down south to face Southampton at St. Mary's on Saturday afternoon, as the Champions of England look to further strengthen their footing in the title race.

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