Pep Guardiola says Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne is “so sad” after being ruled out for up to six weeks in a fresh injury blow for the Premier League champions.
De Bruyne is yet to start in the league this season having already spent an extended period on the sidelines with a knee injury.
And after damaging the ligaments in his other knee in Thursday’s EFL Cup defeat of Fulham, De Bruyne will miss next weekend’s Manchester derby and is a doubt for the remainder of City’s Champions League campaign.
De Bruyne may return in time for the meeting with Premier League title contenders Chelsea on December 8 and Guardiola addressed the playmaker’s injury when he appeared in front of the media ahead of Sunday’s home game against Southampton.
“He was so sad. I didn’t see him after the game but he was sad, today less sad, and tomorrow he’ll be stronger,” Guardiola told a news conference.
“He can spend the time with his new boy and family, after the international break we have two or three more games and he’ll be back.
“Hopefully we stay in the Champions League and he can be back. Maybe it will help us at the end of the season, when he is fresher in mind and body, to meet our targets.
“He’ll be treated by Dr [Ramon] Cugat and he will continue. He doesn’t need surgery. The most important thing is he is in really good hands.”
Guardiola insisted he is not worried De Bruyne has sustained a fresh injury without returning to the City team in the Premier League since his last long layoff.
“He is so strong and recovered so well from the previous injury, more dangerous than this one, he’ll recover well,” Guardiola added. “We have an excellent [medical] department and he is unlucky.
“I’m more worried if it is the same muscle again but this is a trauma and it’s unlucky, this situation. I would say we are a stronger team with Kevin than without but we have to live without him.
“It’s not just the Manchester derby. It’s three points, like Southampton, it will not be another final, another game. Apart from the fact he was out two-and-a-half months we are sad for him, we don’t like it and nobody likes to be an injured player.
“Always after coming back you cannot expect to be the same after one day, he needs time to settle and find the rhythm and pace, yesterday he came back but it is what it is. Unfortunately he’s injured but fortunately it’s not serious, four to six weeks the doctor said he’ll come back.”
City are also likely to be without Ilkay Gundogan and Nicolas Otamendi for Sunday’s visit of Southampton, who are managed by former City boss Mark Hughes.
“Gundo is training with the team but before the game against Fulham in the EFL Cup he told me he’s better but not comfortable, not 100 per cent, so he didn’t play,” Guardiola said of the Germany midfielder.
“Nico still has a problem with his tendon and didn’t train today, so won’t be able to play the next game. But he’s a surprising guy. He’s so strong with a big mentality and played a lot in Spain, so could say tomorrow he’s ready.”