Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has backed Yaya Toure to remain professional and not crack under the pressure of facing a charge of drink driving.
The 33-year-old Ivory Coast legend — who retired from international football in September — will appear in court in London next Tuesday after police said he was over the limit when they pulled him over in his car and breathalysed him.
Toure has spoken about being a devout Muslim and once claimed he couldn’t accept a bottle of champagne as a man of the match award due to his religious beliefs.
City head coach Guardiola says he will judge the four-time African player of the year on the quality of his training and performances while awaiting the outcome of the court case.
Toure has only recently returned to the club’s first team, having been cast to the sidelines after his agent Dimitri Seluk made critical comments about Guardiola.
Toure — who won the 2009 Champions League when he was coached by Guardiola at Barcelona — made his first appearance since August when he was recalled for the Premier League match at Crystal Palace on November 19, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win.
“I trust him (Toure). Whatever happens, I take the decisions based on what I see on the pitch,” said Guardiola.
“I said before he played at Crystal Palace that he’s part of the team because he’s training well.
“He’s fit. I love midfield players. If I could play 11 midfield players, I would, and he’s one of them. Then after the charge, we will see what the situation is.”
City, who visit struggling champions Leicester in the Premier League on Saturday, are about to enter the busy Christmas fixture list without two of their key players through suspension.
Guardiola will be without both striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Fernandinho as they start lengthy bans following their red cards against Chelsea last Saturday.
Aguero will miss City’s next four games after being sent off for a wild hack at David Luiz late in the 3-1 defeat. Fernandinho will be absent for three matches, having pushed Cesc Fabregas over an advertising hoarding in the melee that followed.
Kelechi Iheanacho -– a scorer in Tuesday’s 1-1 Champions League draw against Celtic -– is set to lead the attack in Aguero’s absence, while veteran Argentinian full-back Pablo Zabaleta is a contender to take Fernandinho’s holding midfield role.
“Zabaleta can play in the middle,” said Guardiola.
“In the last game against Chelsea, he did that. He is really good at arriving in the box.
“In the last years of his career, he is going to play more in the middle than at full-back. He has the qualities, not the same as Fernandinho, but he can play there.”
The City boss is seeking greater consistency from a team who have continued to pick up victories on their travels yet have not won a Premier League home game since September 17 and have just four wins in their last 14 competitive matches.
“I am a coach to get results, otherwise I would not be here,” Guardiola said.
“But in the long term, if you play well, you are going to win.
“Sometimes you are sad when you deserve to win and you are not able to, but that happens to all teams around the world.
“Always you focus on the way you have to play, not the result.
“If we play like we did against Chelsea or at Celtic, we will do good things. If we play like at Crystal Palace, we are not going to do anything.”