Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has backed Eliaquim Mangala to prove he's got what it takes to replace captain Vincent Kompany.
The City skipper has suffered a number of injuries this term, but Pellegrini is confident his £32million summer signing can step up to the mark.
Doubts have been cast over Mangala since his impressive Premier League debut, but the absence of Kompany means he's one of the first names on the team sheet at present, though Pellegrini has backed him to gain a place on merit.
He told reporters: "I don't think Mangala needs Kompany to be injured to have his chances."
Since nullifying the threat of the powerful Diego Costa on debut, Mangala has struggled both in the Premier League and in Europe, as have many of City's back four.
However, the club have recorded three consecutive clean sheets, with the young Frenchman playing the full 90 minutes in all three.
A number of shaky performances culminated in Mangala being sent off for two avoidable yellow cards against Southampton, and on his return against Everton the Frenchman was lucky not to be dismissed for a reckless collision with Samuel Eto'o.
However, Pellegrini insists he has full faith in the 23-year-old, and expects him to become a major player for the Premier League champions.
"Of course we have a lot of trust in Mangala. That's why we bought him," he told said.
"Maybe he has made some mistakes in the Premier League and maybe he has taken time to settle here.
"But we continue to trust in him because I am sure he is a very good player, he is a very young player, and he will be a very important centre-back for our team."
Having become the most expensive defender in history when he swapped Porto for Manchester City, Mangala has struggled to live up to his £32m price-tag.
Pellegrini openly admits his summer signing hasn't had an easy ride so far, but he has little regrets over splashing the majority of his transfer budget on the French international.
"He started the season late but has played a lot of games already, playing well in some and not so well in others. But I am very happy with him and I am sure he will be an important player for this club," he said.