Pep Guardiola has not ruled out Sergio Agüero returning early from a hamstring injury for Manchester City's match at home to Liverpool on Sunday and could have Gabriel Jesus back for Tuesday's Champions League game with Olympiakos.
Agüero was injured in the draw at West Ham on October 24th. Guardiola’s initial view was that the club’s record goalscorer could be out for up to a month but there is a chance the 32-year-old could face Liverpool in a pivotal early-season fixture. If City beat the champions they will move two points behind Liverpool with a match in hand.
Asked about Agüero’s prospects the manager said: “We don’t want to make a step back again [by rushing him] but he’s getting better. It’s not so [bad] as we believed when he felt something in the last game, against West Ham. He’s getting better – I don’t know about Liverpool. After the international break for sure he’ll be ready.”
Jesus suffered a muscle problem after playing all of City's season-opening win at Wolves on September 21st, and Guardiola has fielded Raheem Sterling and Ferran Torres as deputy No 9s in the absence of Jesus and Agüero. The Brazilian could return for the visit of Olympiakos in City's third Group C game.
“We’ll see the last training [before the match],” Guardiola said. ”He did one with the team yesterday [Sunday]. We are happy he’s back but we’ve been happy with Ferran so we have an alternative.”
Torres has scored in each of City’s previous two Champions League wins, against Porto and Marseille, operating at centre forward in the latter match. Sterling has played in the position numerous times under Guardiola. The manager has previously said Agüero will be close to impossible to replace and was asked on Monday whether Sterling might be a long-term solution.
“He can play there when the opponents are defending a lot of spaces in behind; when teams come to press he can do it,” he said. “When teams settle in the box for 90 minutes he’s better down the sides than in the middle.”
In the transfer window Nathan Aké and Rúben Dias were bought to strengthen City's centre back options, with Aymeric Laporte, Eric García and John Stones already at the club. Guardiola is content with this new depth after Vincent Kompany's departure in summer 2019 and Laporte's serious injury blighted his previous campaign.
“Definitely I am pleased,” he said. “We struggled a lot last season, with the problems we had: Vincent went to Belgium [to Anderlecht] and there was a serious injury for Laporte. We were damaged, but we’ve new players coming and we have alternatives to use in the position.”
Guardiola warned against complacency when playing Olympiakos, the Greek champions. “You cannot make a false step in the Champions League because after that you struggle,” he said.
“We know to qualify you have to secure your games at home and win at least one away. We did it winning in Marseille but now we have to be sure we can keep the points at home. That’s why tomorrow we have an incredible opportunity to make a huge step to qualify for the next round. Olympiakos have to win every game and when you play with this mentality it’s difficult to face.” – Guardian