Nightmare for Man City?

John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are out injured for a while


Nine City games Stones will miss with Liverpool return possible

John Stones could return from injury in time to play title rivals Liverpool at Anfield, though the Manchester City defender faces missing his side's next nine games.

Pep Guardiola confirmed on Tuesday that Stones had suffered a muscle problem in training which will put him out of contention for between four and six weeks.

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How will Manchester City cope with their injured defenders?

By Joe Harker

Questions were already being asked of Manchester City's defence after centre back Aymeric Laporte suffered a long term injury that is expected to keep him out until February.

With their 3-2 defeat to Norwich City marred by defensive errors from John Stones and Nicolás Otamendi another injury to the defence was the last thing Pep Guardiola needed, so the news that Stones will be out for several weeks is a bitter blow.

While he was not playing at his best, the injury to Stones leaves City with Otamendi the only fit senior centre back, a serious problem for a team hoping to defend a Premier League title and compete in the Champions League.

The Claim:

Mark Critchley of The Independent describes the situation as Guardiola's "worst case scenario" and it is hard to disagree.

Part of the reason City are so successful under Guardiola is because they have quality and depth in almost every position. Having only one senior centre back available robs them of depth, while Otamendi is probably the least regarded of City's options in the position.

The manager said the situation was "no problem" but Critchley believes he is not being very honest. After all, not even the best managers can shrug off a situation where you have three players for two positions and lose your best pairing to injuries.

Guardiola could play 34 year old defensive midfielder Fernandinho alongside Otamendi as a stopgap until Stones recovers from his injury, or he might prefer Rodri, the player signed as Fernandinho's replacement.

Failing that it might be time for City to give one of their youth team players a temporary promotion. 18 year old Eric Garcia made three appearances for the senior team in the Carabao Cup last season, he could be needed.

The Counter Claim:

While having only one fit centre back is widely acknowledged as a nightmare for City the fixture list has been rather forgiving.

Stones is reportedly targeting a return to action against Southampton on November 2, meaning he would miss eight games.

Those games are a home fixture against bottom of the table Watford, a cup game against Championship side Preston North End, an away trip to a struggling Everton side, a home game against Dinamo Zagreb, another home fixture against second bottom of the table side Wolves, an away game against Crystal Palace, a home game against Atalanta and another home game against Aston Villa.

While no game ought to be easy those are a list of opponents City would be expecting to beat, some of them rather easily. It's not a good situation for any club to be in, but if it had to come at a time in the season then it's hard to think of any better moment.

City have been fortunate to be drawn in what ought to be an easy Champions League group and their run of fixtures with only one fit centre back does not feature any of their other "big six" rivals in the Premier League. All league fixtures in that run are against teams currently in the bottom half of the table.

The Facts:

Laporte's knee injury is a serious concern and will have him out until February, at least that's what the estimations say.

Stones has suffered a muscular injury that could sideline him for up to six weeks, leaving Otamendi to hold the fort alongside one of Fernandinho, Rodri or possibly Garcia.

City are currently second in the Premier League, having picked up 10 points from their opening five games. They are already five points behind title rivals Liverpool, who have won all of their games thus far.

While their defence is a problem the team's attack is doing just fine. Their tally of 16 goals scored is higher than anyone else in the league this season.

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Guardiola faces challenge now City's worst case scenario has arrived

"No problem," Pep Guardiola said somewhat unconvincingly on Tuesday, having delivered the news that John Stones will be sidelined for up to six weeks with a muscular injury. "It's a challenge. They will do it and do it well because my players are the best. I will create something. It is what it is. Football is not how you handle the good situations. It's how you handle the bad ones. I am ready for the challenge.

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