Manuel Pellegrini hints Vincent Kompany may return to starting line-up
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has paved the way for captain Vincent Kompany to return in Sunday's derby against rivals United.
Pellegrini has admitted his team are stronger with Kompany on the field, even though he has left the influential defender out for the last two games.
Kompany has been on the City bench since playing for Belgium against Pellegrini's wishes, following a spell out injured, during the recent international break.
But after bringing the 29-year-old on as a late substitute in the midweek Champions League win over Sevilla, he may now be set to return to the starting line-up - although there are still no guarantees.
Pellegrini said: "He was five weeks without playing and we'll see when he'll return, but I always say this team is better with Vincent than without him."
That would certainly seem the case with City keeping five successive clean sheets with Kompany in the side at the start of the season but none in the seven games since he suffered his injury.
Such was the form and influence of Kompany in those early games that it was a surprise he did not feature against Bournemouth last weekend having been deemed fit. His benching in midweek was then even more unexpected.
Pellegrini said: "At the beginning of the season I said Vincent and (Eliaquim) Mangala were untouchable because they were playing very well. We bought (Nicolas) Otamendi and he didn't play because they were doing so well.
"But after that there's a lot of things why the performances of the players change and it is my duty to choose the best XI every game.
"If you remember last season we finished the last six games without Vincent and we won all six, conceding only two. So the moments of the player are the most important thing."
Pellegrini has been forced to deny he was punishing Kompany for playing in his country's final Euro 2016 qualifier against Israel on October 13 by leaving him out.
He said: "I don't have any problem with Vincent Kompany. I need every week to choose the XI that I think is the best for that game and when the others play they must wait, exactly the same for the players of the squad.
"I'm not punishing Vincent and I don't have any problems in the relationship with Vincent.
"I think that after one month or five weeks without playing and without training you must be fit and you are not ready to play an important game. It's important to work some days before he returns to the team."
Pellegrini, speaking at a press conference to preview Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash at Old Trafford, did appear to get frustrated as he was asked numerous questions about his captain.
"I'm finished talking about Vincent, I've said all I can about him," he said at one point. "I don't need to explain it all again."
Kompany's late introduction against Sevilla also led to some confusion as captain for the night Yaya Toure offered the Belgian the armband only for Pellegrini to stop him. Pellegrini has insisted this was not a snub to Kompany but he was telling Toure he was not being substituted.
He said: "The only thing that I thought was that Yaya was changing his armband because (he thought) he was leaving the pitch, but it was not Yaya, it was De Bruyne."
For his part, Kompany is confident of hitting the ground running when he does return to the team.
He told NBC: "Every game I have played so far this season has been really good so I wanted to keep that going, so an injury is never a nice thing to happen at that moment.
"I came back against Israel and it was fine and I felt good and was able to produce the same level of performance again. It just has to carry on."