World Cup 2018: Man City pride at stake when England face Belgium in Group G
England’s showdown against Belgium in their final group match could feature half the City team, and John Stones is relishing the prospect of facing up to club pals Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany.
It could be a classic match of the tournament and likely to decide the group winners. “Yes, there’s been plenty of talk between me and Kevin,” said Stones.
“And we’ve both said how strange it will be after playing with each other all season to then face each other at the World Cup.
“I play against him in training quite a lot and if we get the opportunity to play against each other in different shirts it will be a good rivalry.
“As for Vinny, I hope he can stay fit and enjoy the World Cup and then come back to City in good shape.”
Stones was amazed that another City colleague, flying winger Leroy Sane, was left out of Germany’s 23-man squad for the tournament.
It is the most surprising omission of any nation, even if it underlines the weight of talent enjoyed by the World Cup holders.
“I am so gutted for him,” said Stones. “Leroy’s a world-class player even though he is so young. I know how much this meant to him, and it will have hurt him massively.
“I haven’t spoken to him yet; I want to let the dust settle a bit. Now he has got a lot of time to think about it before and during the tournament and that wouldn’t be good for me if I was in his shoes. I am still quite shocked.”
England begin their campaign against Tunisia and it is a potential banana skin of a match, one they are expected to win comfortably even though the African side are relatively high in the world rankings. Complacency would be folly.
“We have to focus all our energy into that game,” said Stones. “There’s no point in thinking one or two steps ahead – or looking who we might get in the quarter-finals. That’s pointless.
“We have to make sure we do the job in front of us. It’s single-minded but it makes it clearer and easier to concentrate on what’s being asked of us.
“It’s not an easy start. They are a decent side, but if we do well that will set the tone for what happens next.”
One game at a time – the mantra of all managers from England boss Gareth Southgate to the intense Pep Guardiola at City.
Stones revealed he may get a pep talk from Pep even at the World Cup, saying: “He said he’ll be watching and cheering us.
“I’m sure we’ll all speak to him before matches. He’s always open to a call or text 24 hours. He’s made that clear – even when we are with our international teams.
“It’s great that he’s so open like that and we can approach him any time for anything really. He might not pick up, though, if we face Spain – and I wouldn’t blame him really.”