Laporte ahead of schedule – report

Manchester City

Aymeric Laporte could hand Pep Guardiola a huge boost by returning to action at the start of February, according to insiders at the Etihad.

The Manchester City and France central defender has been out of action since he damaged the cartilage and meniscus in his right knee in the 4-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion at the beginning of September.

Laporte had established himself as one of the best defenders in the Premier League since his £57m transfer from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018.

He had also just been called up by France boss Didier Deschamps for the first time when he suffered his injury heartbreak, which was scheduled to keep him sidelined until mid-March.

The powerful 25-year-old, however, is now working daily at City’s Football Academy complex and making ‘better than expected’ progress.

It is understood Laporte is now able to jog and is at stage two of his recovery, having already built up the surrounding muscle in his knee joint.

There is a growing feeling with his doctors that the Basque man can commence ball work next month and then be introduced back into the main group of players early in the new year.

That will be music to the ears of City boss Guardiola, who has seen his defence struggle without Laporte, even preferring to utilise veteran midfielder Fernandinho, rather than rely on the slipshod efforts of Argentina central defender Nicolas Otamendi.

The current Premier League champions slipped nine points behind leaders Liverpool following their 3-1 defeat to the Kopites, with their makeshift rearguard proving to be the main difference between the two heavyweights.

City fans were buoyed to see Laporte on the bus which travelled to Anfield, with the player also wanting to lend his support and confident he will now be back playing quicker than anticipated.