Belfast Telegraph

Kompany is closing in on his latest return, says Guardiola

Manchester City v AS Monaco, Champions League Round of 16, Etihad Stadium, tonight, 7.45pm

By Jack de Menezes

Pep Guardiola has ruled Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany out of the Champions League Round of 16 first leg against Monaco tonight, but confirmed that the injury-prone defender could be in line to return for the FA Cup replay against Huddersfield Town next week.

Kompany missed the 0-0 draw with the Championship side on Saturday, having made just one appearance in 2017 after being hampered by a knee ligament injury as well as the psychological effects of his spate of setbacks.

The 30-year-old has played just six times this season, with just 115 minutes in the Premier League under his belt since April 2016, and Guardiola was quick to confirm his absence when speaking at a pre-match press conference yesterday.

Asked if the City captain will be available for the visit of Monaco, Guardiola said: "I don't know. I think it will not be long. For the Huddersfield game he will be ready but not for tomorrow."

The City boss insisted he is relishing the intensity of the Champions League spotlight and hopes his players do the same.

Guardiola won the competition twice with Barcelona and took Bayern Munich to three successive semi-finals, thriving on the knife-edge pressure it brings.

"A lot of big clubs are not here, they are not living that situation," he said. "We are lucky guys.

"I know how difficult it is as a manager, as a player, to be selected to be here. The recent history is quite good but in the long history, Manchester City were not here for a long time. I would like to convince the players to enjoy that moment. It is beautiful.

"All of Europe will watch us, to analyse us, to kill us if we don't win or say how good we are if we do win. That is the huge experience. It is beautiful to me.

"It is one of the most beautiful competitions. Maybe not the most important, but the most beautiful."

City reached the quarter-finals for the first time last season and went on to make the last four, but their opponents are in formidable form.

Monaco are top of Ligue 1, three points ahead of a Paris St Germain side that thrashed Barcelona last week, having scored 76 goals in their 26 games.

A number of their players have been linked with big-money summer moves with 18-year-old winger Kylian Mbappe, especially, earning rave reviews.

Guardiola said: "Like a spectator it is so nice to see them. I am impressed how good they are.

"They are physically strong, the full-backs play like wingers, the wingers play like attacking midfielders. The two strikers are fighters in the box - (Radamel) Falcao, (Valere) Germain. They are killers in the box.

"We are looking forward to playing against them."

Falcao, who struggled to make an impact during loan spells at Manchester United and Chelsea in the past two seasons, has rediscovered the form that once made him one of the most feared strikers in the world, and has scored 19 goals this season.

Guardiola said: "He had tough injuries. The system and the way they play now is perfect for him."

City's run to the semis last season was a landmark achievement for the club and the challenge is now to replicate that.

Forward Kevin De Bruyne said: "This team is building on that but we need time to do that year after year. Last year was a great step but we know it is going to be a tough test in France.

"It is very important for people who look at us, evaluate us and criticise us to see we are going in the right direction."

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