REUTERS - Sergio Aguero proved he is still vital to Manchester City's cause as the Argentine paved the way for a routine 2-0 victory at bottom club Sunderland on Sunday.
Having lost his place last month to young Brazilian Gabriel Jesus there has been speculation about his future, but he was at his razor-sharp best as third-placed City closed the gap on Premier League leaders Chelsea to eight points.
He opened the scoring three minutes before halftime when he dinked in Raheem Sterling's low cross -- taking his tally to five goals in his last three games in all competitions.
Leroy Sane made it 2-0 just before the hour mark after a superb pass by David Silva sent him in on goal.
Sunderland struck the post through Jermain Defoe when it was 0-0 but offered little apart from hard graft.
With a home game against Stoke City to come on Wednesday, City can move into second place and there are signs, after a fourth consecutive league win, that they are finding another gear at the perfect moment in the season.
And having recovered from a run of six games without a goal, Aguero is back to his best form.
"I am happy and was very pleased with display of Sergio. When a huge player is left out people ask, "Why? Why? Why?" Guardiola said. "In the future I want to involve both Gabriel Jesus and Sergio when they're fit.
"Sergio helped us a lot in our game and in the build up. It was brilliant."
Sunderland had worked tirelessly to restrict City in the first half but were undone by a move of real quality.
Yaya Toure fed the ball to Silva who in turn released Sterling and when he delivered a low cross Aguero ghosted into space to flick a close-range effort past Pickford for his 12th league goal of the season and 23rd in all competitions.
Sane finished off Sunderland with shot off the post and City could have doubled their lead in the closing stages as Sunderland tired.
Apart from the ever-willing Defoe, Sunderland offered little threat after that and remain bottom with only 19 points -- six adrift of safety -- after a third consecutive defeat.
"I hope our players understand the position that we're in, but we're not panicking," manager David Moyes said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)