Manchester City will be without Kevin De Bruyne for this weekend’s Premier League visit of Arsenal after the Belgian suffered an injury during the international break.
De Bruyne was substituted in last week’s Nations League fixture against England and, although Belgium boss Roberto Martinez insisted the measure was a “precaution”, the playmaker was an early withdrawal from the national squad.
While Pep Guardiola is optimistic the unspecified injury is not too serious, the City manager refused to put a timescale on De Bruyne’s recovery, but admitted he would be unavailable to face the Gunners.
“Unfortunately Kevin is out but the rest of the players have come back well,” Guardiola said, when asked about the readiness of those who have recently returned from international duty.
“I don’t think it’s much but the next games I think he will be out. But we’ll see day-by-day how it’s going on. Every team has a lot of games. I don’t know, I cannot answer (how many games De Bruyne will miss).
“I never complain about international games, I know how important for the players for their countries, it’s a privilege and they have to do it.”
Gabriel Jesus remains on the sidelines and Guardiola is not prepared to rush the Brazilian back into the first team, despite City’s modest start to the campaign which has seen them collect just four points from three games.
“He had an injury in some muscles that mean we cannot take a risk,” Guardiola said. “In the front part of his leg and if it’s injured we’d lose him for a long time. I don’t know on the time.”
Guardiola offered a more upbeat assessment on fellow striker Sergio Aguero, who has recently returned to training following a knee operation in June that saw City’s record goal-scorer miss key fixtures at the end of last season.
“He’s trained well and we are happy, we need a striker, we played without them but he’s trained three or four days, we are happy to see him back on the pitch after a long time,” Guardiola said.
Arsenal’s trip to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday brings Guardiola into the spotlight alongside Mikel Arteta, who was assistant to his fellow Spaniard at City before taking the reins at the Gunners last December.
Guardiola says it is no shock to him that Arteta has provided a sense of stability at Arsenal, leading them to FA Cup glory last season, defeating his former club and old boss en route to lifting the trophy.
“Maybe we should clarify who’s the master and who’s the apprentice first,” Guardiola said. “All the people who know him, we didn’t have any doubts about what he’s doing in a short period of time.
“He settled really well and the way his team is playing right now is perfect for the quality they have. He was able to get Arsenal back to the position where they were a long time ago.
“He’s doing really well in all competitions. Mikel is a competitor and a fighter. All the people who love him, we are more than happy with what he’s doing in London.”
This campaign has already thrown up several stunning results, with City beaten 5-2 at home to Leicester last month while Aston Villa battered Liverpool 7-2 immediately before the international break.
Guardiola expects a return to the status quo soon, adding: “It’s an exceptional situation – and all around the world it’s exceptional, these six, seven, eight goals per game it’s not normal.
“I think it will settle normally. There’s a lot of teams, many games especially in Europe and it will be difficult to know exactly what is going on.”