Manchester City will be without some of their star players for the trip to Chelsea on Sunday as both sides nurse a lengthy injury list.

Mauricio Pochettino’s Blues were given a boost on Monday in the win against Tottenham with Reece James starting for just a second time this season in the league but another worry emerged at the same time.

Enzo Fernandez took a blow from fellow Argentine Cristian Romero as he was fouled in the lead up to Cole Palmer’s equalising penalty, but had to be taken off early after the defender scraped his studs down the shin and ankle of his compatriot.

That’s far from the only worry for Pochettino to deal with either as Christopher Nkunku, Trevoh Chalobah, Wesley Fofana and Ben Chilwell all miss the game while Romeo Lavia is out and there are doubts still over Armando Broja and Carney Chukwuemeka.

Pep Guardiola’s men can’t match that in terms of numbers but he does have a bit of a selection headache after losing John Stones and Manuel Akanji on Tuesday night. City beat Young Boys 3-0 at home in the Champions League to secure their progression into the knockout stages of the competition but it wasn’t as smooth sailing as the scoreline suggests.

Akanji, who had been in the team to start, was a late problem for Guardiola to deal with as Kyle Walker replaced the versatile Swiss defender. “Well, Manu [Akanji] had a problem in his back,” the Spaniard explained after the match.

“It happened in training, he looks like he 75 years old. He could not play. That’s why Kyle replaced him. Hopefully not a big issue and he will be ready for Sunday,” Guardiola said.

Things got worse after half-time, though, with Stones ruled out for the foreseeable as well. The Englishman had missed the start of the season with injury and only made his first appearance against Arsenal as a late substitute at the start of October. He then started three games in a row, including the 6-1 demolition of Bournemouth, before being forced off at the break on Tuesday.

“Now we are in trouble,” Guardiola said about what he will do in midfield. Stones comes up field for City and joins Rodri in the middle but this latest setback dents his plans. “We will have to play a bit differently, like Arsenal, it is not comfortable. Not change many variations,” Guardiola explained.

“Kalvin [Phillips, substitute] played some really good minutes, Nathan [Ake] in that position or Manu. They can play it. They have stability, control in transitions. Manu or Nathan can play perfectly.”

The former Barcelona and Bayern boss also added: “The next four 4 games, Luton as well – against Liverpool I saw how difficult it will be. Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Villa, Leipzig in between. We lost John, hopefully the players come back fit [from international break]. We need everyone.”

Stones is now set to be out for a while though. “John felt it again,” Guardiola told TNT Sports. “I feel so sorry for him. It’s a big loss for us. John is so important for what he does. But recover and the season is long; he will be back stronger. I think he will be out for a while.”

In the press conference he expanded more on the issue, saying: “It’s muscular, will be a while out. A pity for him, incredible professional. A pity and bad news for us.”

City were able to welcome Erling Haaland back and he did it with a bang. The striker scored twice, once from the spot and once with a thunderbolt from outside the box, before being replaced on the hour mark. He had been taken off early against the Cherries as well with Guardiola saying after the weekend’s game: “Twist in the ankle, we didn’t want to take risks with him, he didn’t feel comfortable.

“He’ll be back maybe Tuesday but maybe next Sunday. I didn’t speak with the doctors yet but we will see in the next days how it develops.” He is now back and rested for the trip to Stamford Bridge.

Kevin De Bruyne is a long-term injury abscentee for City, as is Sergio Gomez.





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