As the duo of Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez battle to be first choice for Pep Guardiola in Manchester City’s starting XI, both wingers put up stellar performances for their respective national teams during the international break.
It took Sane 16 caps to score his first goal for Germany, but the 22-year-old scored his second a few days later in their Nations League draw with Holland. After opening his account for his country in the friendly against Russia on Thursday, he followed that up with another strike from the edge of the box on Monday night that put Germany 2-0 up against the Netherlands.
Unfortunately, it was not enough as the visitors scored twice in the last five minutes to snatch a draw and qualify for the Nations League semi-finals. The Germans were already relegated even with a win, but another draw means Joachim Löw’s men failed to win a single game in the Nations League.
Sane’s starts for the Sky Blues have been limited this season following the record signing of Mahrez from Leicester City in the summer. But he will be hoping his international heroics can help him force his way back as a regular in Pep Guardiola’s starting XI.
On his part, Mahrez scored two stunning goals as former winners Algeria qualified for next year’s African Nations Cup finals on Sunday. The former PFA Player of the Year award winner struck twice in the opening half hour as Algeria, who won the continental title in 1990, sped into a three-goal lead away against Togo before eventually winning 4-1 to take top spot in Group D.
The 27-year-old has been in top form for City this season as he has often been preferred in the starting line-up to Sane. Although the duo’s good performance will ultimately benefit the team as a whole, individually, they will be seeking to start more often.
Mahrez leads his counterpart in output for City so far having scored six goals and set up another four in all competitions while Sane has scored three times and provided four assists. Having both players performing at their peak will be important to Guardiola as the team approaches the busy festive period.
The title race is proving to be a tighter affair this time around as both Liverpool and Chelsea have refused to lose after 12 rounds of matches. Therefore, having every key player performing at their best will be vital to achieve this season’s ambitions.
Having the 2016 PFA Player of the Year and last season's PFA Young Player of the Year competing for a place in the same team is an embarrassment of riches that should serve Guardiola well and help Man City dominate English football again. Extending that dominance to Europe as well will be most welcome.