Belfast Telegraph

Aguero blow rocks City camp

Manuel Pellegrini prepared for Manchester City's crunch Champions League clash at Roma by revealing Sergio Aguero could be out for six weeks.

The City boss then insisted his job was not on the line as he looked ahead to the fixture that will determine his side's immediate European fate without his star striker.

Aguero, who has scored 19 goals this season and struck a dramatic hat-trick to keep City alive in Europe against Bayern Munich a fortnight ago, damaged knee ligaments in Saturday's win over Everton.

His absence will be keenly felt but Pellegrini was keen to take the focus away from the 26-year-old ahead of the decisive Group E contest at the Stadio Olimpico.

Pellegrini, speaking at his pre-match press conference, said: "Well, Sergio - we know he is injured. He cannot play tomorrow.

"He will see how long he will be out but I think it is more important for us to think about the players we have available for an important game against Roma."

When pressed on how long Aguero could be absent after he was assessed over the weekend, the Chilean said: "We know but it is difficult to know exactly how long he will be injured.

"It could maybe be four, five or six weeks. It depends a lot on the way he recovers."

That would certainly rule him out of remaining games this month against Leicester, Crystal Palace, West Brom and Burnley, the New Year's Day clash with Sunderland and an FA Cup third-round tie against Sheffield Wednesday.

Should he be ruled out for six weeks, Aguero would also miss tough games against Everton and Arsenal but he could be back to face title Barclays Premier League rivals Chelsea on January 31.

Aguero's performances have been the key factor in City's recent return to form with successive wins heading into the Roma clash.

But Pellegrini must now try to engineer a positive result without him.

His side are level on five points with Roma and CSKA Moscow in a tight battle for the second last-16 qualification spot behind Bayern Munich.

To go through City need to win and hope CSKA do not beat Bayern, or get a score draw and hope CSKA lose. A defeat would eliminate them from Europe altogether.

It is likely to be a night of high tension in the Italian capital as City look to get what had been, until Aguero's heroics against Bayern, a disappointing campaign.

City had made no secret of their ambition to make their mark in the Champions League this season.

A third exit at the group stage in four seasons could therefore raise questions about Pellegrini's future but the 61-year-old does not feel his job is under threat.

He said: "I don't think so. Tomorrow is a very important game and all of us want to qualify but I don't think that what happens will have some link about the future in my club.

"I have never received any kind of pressure from the club. I hope we are going to qualify but I have nothing to be (concerned) about my future here."

Roma know that they will go through with a victory but anything less would open the door for City or CSKA.

Pellegrini said: "I think both clubs have the same pressure. It is a big thing here in Italy, they have spent a lot of money on different players and have a very good squad. I think the pressure for both clubs is exactly the same."

As well as being without Aguero, City are again missing key midfielder Yaya Toure through suspension.

The positive news is that playmaker David Silva, out since October with a knee injury, and captain Vincent Kompany, who has missed two games with a hamstring problem, have both trained and could return.

Striker Stevan Jovetic, who was rested against Everton as a precaution against a hamstring niggle, could also feature - although Pellegrini was coy when asked about the trio.

He said: "All of them could be ready. There is some doubt about one of them but we will see tomorrow."

Pellegrini admitted it has been a troubled group campaign but he is confident of a positive outcome.

He said: "Maybe we made a lot of different mistakes in the other games, especially against the Russian team, but we have a chance.

"As we demonstrated against Bayern Munich, we will fight to qualify. Tomorrow we will try to do it. I am sure we are going to do it if we play a very good game."

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