Pep Guardiola was expecting Manchester City to start the new campaign on top form but insists "the season is still so young" as his team instead toil in the bottom half of the Premier League.

City are in Champions League action against Olympiacos on Wednesday, looking to advance to the last 16 with a fourth straight victory.

As well as delivering another result on the European stage, though, Guardiola recognises the match is important to "recover our feelings" after another painful outing in the Premier League.

City went down 2-0 at early leaders Tottenham on Saturday and now lie 13th in the table, already eight points off the pace with a game in hand to play.

A return of 12 points from eight games is City's worst start to a league season since 2008-09 (10 points), while their failings in attack are particularly concerning, netting just 10 times - a low since scoring six times in eight matches in 2006-07.

Guardiola is confident his side will turn their fortunes around, though, explaining: "I had a feeling we would do really well this season. I don't know why [we haven't].

"From the beginning, I expected a reaction after how we finished the last season against Lyon in Portugal. I have a good feeling.

"We know what we have to do. We are a team who last season scored a lot and now we are struggling.

"I have to find a solution, to find the right way to attack more fluently and have the feeling that we can score goals. But in the way we play, I'm quite good, quite happy.

"There are little details still we have to improve, conceding penalties that are unnecessary, sometimes we miss clear chances we have to score.

"But the moment will break. In one or two games, this kind of thing will get better. The season is still so young and I'm fully optimistic we're going to do a good season."

Guardiola is also willing to stay patient with record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, who watched on from the bench at Spurs as City had 22 shots without finding the net.

Aguero suffered a knee injury in June and has played just 110 minutes in the league so far this season, attempting a single shot that failed to hit the target.

"We want him to come back," Guardiola said. "Today he trained again. That he can recover a good feeling in his knee is the most important thing.

"I know it is not easy [being] injured but we wait for him and it's a step at a time.

"We still have many, many games this season to play and we will need him. We want him to recover and be back in the best condition."

In the meantime, new signing Ferran Torres has taken on a striking role, still waiting on his first Premier League goal but scoring three times in three matches in the Champions League.

Another goal against Olympiacos would make him just the third City player - after Aguero and Raheem Sterling - to net in four straight games in the competition.

Torres said of his responsibility to the team: "Obviously we have had a few injuries of our strikers in the squad.

"But I think we are scoring goals as a team - probably not as many as we would like but we are also facing difficult opponents as well, so it's difficult.

"We are working hard as a team to sort that out and I am confident that the goals will arrive.

"Playing as a striker is not my natural position but I feel very comfortable playing there. I am also scoring goals so it is good.

"When you work hard and make sacrifices for the team, you get your rewards, so I am trying to work hard to keep scoring goals."

Pep Guardiola has warned Sergio Aguero cannot solve Manchester City's goalscoring problems on his own as the Argentina striker prepares to make his latest return from injury. 

Aguero missed the start of this season as he continued to recover after undergoing meniscus surgery in June. 

He featured in October's 1-0 win over Arsenal and scored a penalty in City's opening 3-1 Champions League victory against Porto, only to pull up with a hamstring injury at the halfway point of the club's next Premier League outing at West Ham. 

City's all-time record goalscorer remained an unused substitute as Guardiola's side went down to a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham on Saturday - a result that leaves them languishing in the bottom half of the table with 12 points and 10 goals from their eight top-flight matches so far. 

For a team that has scored 102, 95 and 106 in their past three completed league campaigns it represents a startling drop-off, with Aguero's enforced role on the periphery easy to identify as a major part of the problem. 

Since Guardiola took charge of City in 2016, Aguero has scored 78 Premier League goals, with his attacking colleagues Raheem Sterling (64) and Gabriel Jesus (43) next on the list. 

In terms of shot conversion, the trio are similar, with Aguero netting from 24.5 per cent of his attempts - a shade below Sterling on 26.2 and a touch better than Jesus (22.3). When it comes to converting those opportunities Opta classes as big chances, Jesus (36.5 per cent) is far more wasteful than Sterling (50.5) and Aguero (53.4). 

Where the one-time Atletico Madrid favourite stands apart is the frequency of his goals, which come every 107.9 minutes. Jesus' goals-per-minute reading is 131.1, with Sterling further back on 174.7.

The England winger improves to one every 152.1 minutes if counted from the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign, although Aguero’s astonishing return falls to 103.7 counting from City's "centurions" season onwards. 

"I'm not going to say that we don't need Sergio, we need him," Guardiola said of Aguero, who is out of contract at the end of the campaign. 

"But Sergio is 32 years old and was five months injured with a difficult and dangerous injury. 

"He came back, played 50 minutes [then] 55 and he was injured again. 

"We want it and I want Sergio fit. I am not discovering how important he is for us, what he has done in the Premier League. But we have to be careful to not get back again and be injured again. 

"You have to see the moment to put him [on the pitch]. Hopefully it can be soon and he can maintain the regularity to play games." 

Aguero is likely to feature during either the midweek Champions League trip to Olympiacos or Burnley's visit the Etihad Stadium next Saturday. 

A packed schedule has City in action every midweek until the end of England's festive fixture period - a situation that is far from ideal as Guardiola ponders tactical tweaks to a team that again showed familiar flaws in north London. 

"It's impossible. Impossible," he replied when asked how realistic it was to make major adjustments on the training field. 

"But all the clubs are the same - I'm not saying we are at an advantage or a disadvantage. But it is impossible. There is not time."

When you are taking on the Premier League champions, being without your all-time leading goalscorer is a frustrating situation to find yourself in. Imagine if his usual back-up was only just returning from injury as well…

Such circumstances are certainly not ideal, and they have befallen Pep Guardiola as Manchester City prepare to host Liverpool in a clash of the two Premier League title favourites at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Sergio Aguero will not be ready to return from the hamstring injury that has kept him out of action since the 1-1 draw with West Ham two weeks ago, while Gabriel Jesus only came back from six weeks out on Tuesday – though he did manage to score in his 21 minutes on the pitch during a 3-0 victory over Olympiacos in the Champions League.

There is every chance Jesus could be moved into the starting line-up, but Guardiola may be unwilling to take a risk with no let-up in the schedule after an international break that the 23-year-old will spend with the Brazil squad.

The new alternative

Guardiola may simply decide to keep using Ferran Torres, who typically plays as a winger, through the middle.

Torres has been deployed there since Aguero's injury and has proved adept in the role. He has scored two goals in the three matches he has started as a striker, though he has only converted 50 per cent of his big chances after missing two in the 1-0 victory over Sheffield United last week.

Playing him in a central role has not entirely stymied his creativity either, with the Spaniard supplying five key passes despite the change of position. His touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes has remained steady as well at around seven.

Another option

City typically dominate possession in Premier League matches, but they can expect Liverpool to have a greater share of the ball than most of their opponents do.

Since the start of last season, Raheem Sterling has averaged 3.1 shots and 0.5 goals per 90 minutes against Premier League opponents that had less than 40 per cent possession.

However, when the opposition have enjoyed more than that amount, his shots and goals per game rise to 3.3 and 1.0 respectively.

While his goals per game rate doubles against teams that have over 40 per cent of possession, Sterling's expected goals (xG) average only narrowly increases from 0.5 to 0.6, suggesting he has just had better days against opponents that see more of the ball.

Is it enough?

Playing Sterling or Torres as a central striker could perhaps therefore help Guardiola get the better of Klopp, someone he typically struggles against more than his other contemporaries.

The German has claimed more victories over Guardiola than any other manager, triumphing in eight of their previous 19 encounters for a win rate of 37 per cent.

Jose Mourinho (five) is the only other coach to have beaten the Catalan on more than three occasions.

Taking bad shots

It will likely take more than just playing a winger as a striker for City to get the better of Liverpool, though.

City are only averaging two shots per game fewer than they have over the course of the previous four Premier League seasons combined, but their shot conversion rate is down at 9.4 – comfortably their worst percentage of the Guardiola era. Their previous low is 12.6 and was set in Guardiola's first season at the helm, while in 2017-18 they were converting 15.9 per cent of their shots.

Part of the reason for this could be that City are taking lower quality shots this season. Their average xG per shot is 0.08, with Wolves (0.07) and West Brom (0.05) the only teams in the league possessing a lower score.

A tough proposition

There is no guarantee they will find life easier against Liverpool this season, even with Joe Gomez being the only regular first-team centre-back available to Jurgen Klopp amid injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Fabinho.

The Reds have maintained the same intensity when defending as they showed last season; they have increased their average high turnovers per game from 6.6 to 9.4, narrowly raised the number of pressed sequences – which is when the opposition have three or fewer passes in a sequence that stops within 40 metres of their own goal – from 17.8 to 18.7 and continued to limit opponents to 10 passes per defensive action.

It is Liverpool. It is Jurgen Klopp. It is the champions. It is the leaders. It will be a difficult assignment for Guardiola however he approaches the game, but it could be worse than having to play Torres or Sterling as a striker.

Pep Guardiola will again be without Sergio Aguero when Manchester City face a Liverpool side he considers to be the "biggest favourite" for the Premier League title.

Aguero has been out since suffering a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw at West Ham last month and will not feature against the champions on Sunday.

Gabriel Jesus will be pushing for a start when City do battle with the leaders at the Etihad Stadium after scoring on his return from injury as a substitute in a 3-0 midweek Champions League win over Olympiacos.

City boss Guardiola believes several clubs could win the Premier League this season, but thinks Liverpool are the leading contenders.

He said in a press conference on Friday: "They are the biggest favourite, but with the pandemic the situation is a bit different.

"I see other teams strong, Leicester maintained the level from most of last season, Arsenal made a big step forward to be contenders and Tottenham, [Jose] Mourinho has the team what he wants.

"Chelsea in the beginning is so stable now and has a huge squad for rotating top players. [Manchester] United in this moment is not in terms of results but we saw the quality they had last season, we suffered a lot in results and up front they are incredibly fast and clinical.

"I think this season there will be a lot of teams being there. The last five to 10 games will be important to arrive being there to fight for the title. Hopefully we can be there and arrive at the end with a chance to fight for the title."

Guardiola knows 10th-placed City cannot expect to have things all their own way when they come up against Jurgen Klopp's side.

"When you play against teams like Liverpool you always have moments where you have to suffer," said the Catalan. "We know it, we have to do it and try to use our strength as much as possible.

"We know each other quite well, we play many, many times and I don't expect a game like 90 minutes we will be there or they will be there. There will be ups and downs, we have to be stable and take our good chances and be clinical.

"Both teams want to attack, both teams want to try [to attack]."

Gabriel Jesus is closing in on a return ahead of Manchester City's Champions League clash with Olympiacos but Pep Guardiola may have to do without Sergio Aguero against Liverpool.

Jesus has been out since suffering a knock in City's first game of the season at Wolves in September, but is back in training.

Guardiola has not ruled out of the prospect of the 23-year-old Brazil striker making his comeback against Olympiacos in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The City boss said in a press conference on Monday: "It’s too early to know. We will see today, last session. He [Jesus] is better and did one session with the team, a regeneration.

"We are happy he is back. But happy with Ferran [Torres] playing there [in a more advanced role], too."

Aguero is on the mend but may not be fit in time for the blockbuster Premier League clash with reigning champions Liverpool on Sunday.

The Argentina international sustained a hamstring injury in City's draw at West Ham last month, ruling the club's all-time leading goalscorer out of victories over Marseille and Sheffield United.

Guardiola acknowledges the visit of Jurgen Klopp's side on Sunday may also come too soon for the 32-year-old striker.

"We don’t want to make a step back, he's getting better," he said.

"It was so hard to believe when he felt something in the last game when he played against West Ham but he's getting better."

He added: "I don't know about Liverpool, after the international break, [he] will be ready."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola regrets not buying a striker in the last transfer window after confirming Sergio Aguero could be missing for up to a month.

Aguero sustained a hamstring injury in City's 1-1 draw with West Ham last weekend and will not be involved in their Champions League Group C clash with Marseille on Tuesday.

With Gabriel Jesus also absent, recovering from a muscle injury he picked up on the opening day of the Premier League season, City are short of striking options.

When asked if he regretted not strengthening his forward line before the window shut, Guardiola acknowledged it would have been preferable but that they were unable to free up funds.

"Maybe, yes. We considered it, we thought about it, but we could not," Guardiola said at a news conference on the eve of City's match in the south of France.

"If you decide to buy a striker, it has to be a striker in the league of Gabriel and Sergio, but we cannot afford it.

"I am not saying the club didn't want to do it in terms of strikers, they want to make as strong a team as possible. Sergio is back [out injured], and I didn't expect Gabriel to be injured. Sometimes it happens."

Guardiola could not give an exact time frame on Argentina international Aguero's return but revealed City's all-time leading goalscorer could be facing up to a month on the sidelines.

The City boss also dismissed suggestions Aguero was rushed back too quickly following surgery on a knee problem before the new season started.

He continued: "Sergio was injured last game. And you know, when you're four or five months out with knee problems, you are at risk.

"We didn't rush him back. We were incredibly patient, didn't force the doctors. Of course, we knew he was not in the best condition.

"But he was important against West Ham for 55, 60 minutes. Unfortunately, one action in the first half, he was unlucky, went to stop a long pass and he felt something. Hopefully, he recovers as well as possible.

"We tried to manage it as good as possible, but it was not enough to maintain it. We hope he will be back as soon as possible.

"I don't know long; it depends on the injury. The minimum is 10-15 days, a little longer. It could be a month."

Guardiola, meanwhile, would again not be drawn on whether the club has started to open talks with Aguero over a new contract.

The 32-year-old's deal is set to expire at the end of the season but recent injury problems have cast doubt over his City future.

"I don't know, I don't want to talk about it because I am not involved with this," Guardiola added.

"If I should be involved in contracts, maybe the day should be 48 hours, not 24! What I want is for Sergio to be fit, what I want is Sergio [to] come back again, be ready as much as possible.

"We miss him a lot. What he has done for this club is outstanding, [he] will be a legend of this club, we want to enjoy him before but it depends on his physicality and his physical condition."

Pep Guardiola insisted Manchester City are doing "absolutely everything" in tough circumstances as they fell further off the pace in the Premier League with a 1-1 draw against West Ham. 

Phil Foden came off the bench to cancel out Michail Antonio's brilliant overhead kick but City were unable to force a winner as Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez spurned late chances. 

A return of eight points from five matches is the club's worst start to a campaign since 2014-15, when they struggled as defending Premier League champions under Manuel Pellegrini. 

Foden entered the action in place of Sergio Aguero, who sustained a hamstring injury having started three games in a week on his return from meniscus surgery. 

Aguero was pressed into such frequent action due to Gabriel Jesus being sidelined, while left-sided defenders Aymeric Laporte, Nathan Ake and Benjamin Mendy were all unavailable at London Stadium. 

Fernandinho is set to miss the next six weeks after pulling up during the closing stages of Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League win over Porto, while Laporte, Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan have all tested positive for coronavirus this season. 

Guardiola was able to give Kevin De Bruyne a return from the bench but concedes the compressed nature of this season after reaching the final stages of the Champions League in August is taking a toll. 

"I would prefer to have results, but I have to analyse the situation we're in," he told a post-match news conference. 

"We struggle for the many injuries, the lack of preparation and no recovery time between the incredibly tough games we've played so far. 

"The players did absolutely everything, gave everything on the pitch. They fought and were incredibly tired at the end." 

Guardiola accepted the depth of talent in his squad means sympathy will be in short supply. 

He continued: "Of course, there is plenty of quality. I'm not complaining about that. I could complain about the first goal of West Ham [Tomas Soucek appeared to handle in the build-up] but I did not say anything. 

"We struggled with just one or two weeks for preparation, we had guys with COVID, we did not have enough regeneration for the players. 

"Our striker [Jesus] was injured in the first game against Wolves, could not play more. Sergio came back after four or five months, Kevin was injured, Gundo this was the first time he could play 90 minutes. 

"To play three competitions every three days, you need all the squad. If you don't have all the squad it is more difficult. 

"This year we finished and started later than usual. They needed a break. I'm not saying this is the reason why, I'm just putting on the table what our situation is. 

"It's time to struggle, we knew it. Don't drop many points and continue. This is the reality." 

Opposite number David Moyes, who lost his own striker Antonio to a hamstring complaint during the second period, acknowledged Guardiola is in a tricky spot. 

"I think that Manchester City are probably slightly different to us, as they went to the quarter-finals of the Champions League," he said. 

"We were having some sort of holiday time. We had a mini pre-season if you want to call it that. Manchester City haven't. 

"With the international players having to play three games a week ago and three games coming up and the amount of club games coming up at the moment, it's going to take its toll somewhere along the line. 

"In the Championship you become immune to it, but I think for the Premier League players, with the speed and the tempo of the games, I do think they're liable to be injuries if we're not careful." 

Antonio will have a scan to assess his problem, which also hindered him during last weekend's dramatic 3-3 draw at Tottenham. 

Sergio Aguero is set for another spell on the sidelines, adding to Manchester City's ongoing injury woes.

Aguero was replaced at half-time during Saturday's 1-1 Premier League draw at West Ham, a result that leaves Pep Guardiola's side languishing in 12th place with eight points from five matches.

The Argentina international did not suffer a recurrence of the knee injury that required surgery in June, but a hamstring strain means Guardiola is again set to be without a specialist senior striker amid a hectic schedule as Gabriel Jesus steps up his recovery from a muscular complaint.

"He's injured. A different problem. I don't know if it's serious," he told BT Sport, before confirming the precise nature of the 32-year-old's complaint at a post-match news conference.

The game at London Stadium was the first of three on the road this week for City, with a midweek trip to Marseille in the Champions League preceding a Bramall Lane meeting with Sheffield United next Saturday.

Phil Foden replaced Aguero and had a swift impact, lifting City from a tepid first-half display and clipping home a 51st-minute equaliser.

"As always, he gave us something extra," said Guardiola, who was brevity personified after seeing Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez spurn late chances for the win.

Foden offered a fuller appraisal and praised his manager's more pointed words inside the dressing room at half-time.

"I think we stated slow in the first half, weren't passing quick enough round the back and didn't have a good tempo," Foden told BT Sport.

"The manager spoke well at half-time and we came out and played better football."

The England midfielder added: "I like to arrive there and score goals. Long may it continue.

"It's nice to be playing as much as possible because I love this club and love playing for them."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has reiterated his defence of Sergio Aguero over an incident that saw the Argentina striker put his arm around assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis.

Aguero placed a hand on the female official during City's 1-0 win over Arsenal last week and drew widespread criticism on social media and from pundits.

Match of the Day analysts Alan Shearer and Ian Wright were among those to condemn the action, while ex-Manchester United defender Gary Neville called on Aguero to apologise.

Guardiola defended Aguero in the aftermath of the game and once again backed his striker, who he said would have said sorry had Massey-Ellis complained.

"I didn't speak to Sergio about this, but I'm pretty sure if she felt bad, he will apologise without a problem," Guardiola said.

"All the people looking from outside judge, but I know the intention from Sergio. Sergio put his hands in a normal way, like he does many times to me, on or off the pitch.

"Or when I hug him, when there is a substitution, or when sometimes he touches the referee as well or an opponent.

"If I'd seen some aggression, maybe. But I think it was normal as I know him perfectly. He's been a huge star in the world, but he's humble, one of the nicest people I've met.

"What is important is his intention, and his intention was normal, to talk to her in a normal way. It was not a bad word, it was just normal."

Guardiola likened the reaction to the one Bernardo Silva received for a controversial social media post involving team-mate Benjamin Mendy last year.

Silva apologised after posting a picture of a cartoon character promoting a chocolate brand in Spain next to a photo of Mendy with a caption reading: "Guess who?"

The apparent reference to Mendy's race led to a one-match ban and a £50,000 fine, while Silva was ordered to undergo educational training.

"It's the same with what happened with Bernardo. I know him perfectly well, it was a joke and this was a normal situation," Guardiola added.

"I know perfectly, it's like Bernardo and what he had with Mendy. They are brothers and he was suspended."

Substitute Ferran Torres was among the scorers as Manchester City earned a 3-1 comeback win against Porto in Wednesday's Champions League opener after Luis Diaz's impressive solo strike.

City were eliminated at the quarter-final stage for the third year running last season and their latest attempt at winning the competition got off to a somewhat shaky start at the Etihad Stadium.

Diaz profited from some poor defending to race through and open the scoring but the Portuguese champions were pegged back after Pepe gave away a penalty from which Sergio Aguero converted, ending his longest goalscoring drought of 231 days.

Ilkay Gundogan scored a set-piece of his own with a dipping free-kick and close-seasonTorres netted five minutes after being brought off the bench as City turned the game on its head to make a winning start to their Group C campaign.

Porto had failed to score in their previous seven away encounters with English clubs in Europe but had to wait just 14 minutes for that drought to end.

Diaz embarked on an impressive solo run that saw him carry the ball from 45 yards out, evade a number of half-hearted challenges and drill a precise shot past Ederson.

City were given a chance to hit back six minutes later, however, as Pepe clattered into Raheem Sterling moments after Gundogan struck the outside of the post.

The penalty was awarded after a lengthy VAR check for a possible Gundogan foul on Agustin Marchesin, who got a hand to Aguero's spot-kick but could not keep it out.

Mateus Uribe fired over following a poor pass from Ederson and Kyle Walker hooked the ball off the line to spare Ruben Dias' blushes as Porto ended the first half on top.

The visitors dropped off slightly after the break and were undone in the 65th minute by Gundogan's set-piece brilliance, the Germany midfielder lifting the ball up and over the wall after being fouled by Fabio Vieira.

The game was put out of Porto's reach when Torres played a one-two with fellow substitute Phil Foden and crashed past Marchesin.

Following a scuffle between Sterling and Pepe, who had a running battle throughout, Rodri went close to adding a fourth late on as Marchesin pushed his 30-yarder onto the post.

Sergio Aguero must prove he deserves a new contract at Manchester City, manager Pep Guardiola warned.

Aguero returned following a four-month absence due to a knee injury as City recorded a 1-0 win at home to Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday.

But the forward, who is City's all-time leading goalscorer, is out of contract at the end of the season and Guardiola said Aguero had a point to prove if he was to earn a new deal.

"Sergio now has to show, like every one of us, that he deserves to continue here – keep playing well, scoring goals and winning games – and after that the club and I will decide," Guardiola told reporters.

"But if he is playing in his level we don't have any doubts that he is a player to stay until he decides because he is unique. He is important for us, our fans and everyone.

"But he was out four months and he has to start training regularly and start to score goals – this is the most important thing."

Aguero has won four Premier League titles and numerous other domestic trophies since arriving at City from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

Guardiola is unsurprisingly happy to have the 32-year-old – who scored 16 goals in 24 league games last season – back from injury.

"Having Aguero on the pitch, we are better, we are safer," he said.

"We missed him a lot in the important moments at the end part of last season, but now is good news for us that he is back."

Since Aguero arrived at City in 2011, they have a better win percentage without him than with (70.7 to 67.4) in the Premier League, while on average scoring more often (2.4 to 2.3), as per Opta.

Those numbers are amplified since Guardiola took charge in 2016. Since then, City have won 78.6 per cent of Premier League games without Aguero and 71.9 with him, while scoring 2.7 goals per match when the Argentinian has been absent, compared to 2.4 with him.

City begin their Champions League campaign at home to Porto on Wednesday before making the trip to West Ham three days later.

Sergio Aguero is back in the Manchester City starting line-up to face Arsenal, who have new signing Thomas Partey on the bench at the Etihad Stadium.

Aguero has not featured since suffering a meniscus injury against Burnley in June and will lead a City attack also featuring Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez, with Gabriel Jesus remaining sidelined.

Kevin De Bruyne suffered an injury on international duty with Belgium and Pep Guardiola has responded by selecting both Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden alongside holding midfielder Rodri.

Like Aguero, Joao Cancelo makes his first appearance of the season at left-back, with Nathan Ake partnering record signing Ruben Dias at centre-back as Aymeric Laporte is a surprise absentee.

Partey completed a £45million switch to Arsenal from Atletico Madrid on deadline day, although Granit Xhaka partners Dani Ceballos in central midfield for Mikel Arteta's side.

Xhaka is one of three changes from the Gunners 2-1 win over Sheffield United, replacing Mohamed Elneny as defender Rob Holding and winger Nicolas Pepe come in for David Luiz and Eddie Nketiah respectively.

Kevin De Bruyne is set to miss a number of games for Manchester City due to injury, Pep Guardiola announced on Friday.

Midfield maestro De Bruyne went off in the second half of Belgium's 2-1 loss to England last weekend and sat out their 2-1 victory over Iceland on Wednesday.

Guardiola confirmed ahead of Saturday's meeting with Arsenal that the 29-year-old is set for a spell on the sidelines, though he was unsure exactly how long it will be.

Asked about the condition of his players after they returned from the international break, Guardiola said: "Everyone came back a little bit better than the time before, because the previous time [Joao] Cancelo, Bernardo Silva and other were injured and couldn't play the beginning of the season.

"Unfortunately Kevin is out, but the rest they came back well. I don't think [De Bruyne's injury] is much, but for the next games he will be out."

The City boss acknowledged that injuries are inevitable with the congested schedule and did not blame the international fixtures for the loss of De Bruyne.

"I never complain about the international games. I know how important it is for the players to play for their countries, it's an honour and a privilege," Guardiola said.

"UEFA and FIFA defend their own tournaments. We always want players to come back fit but sometimes they can get injured training with us. I am more of the opinion that players are injured because we demand so much of them after tough seasons.

"That's why there arrives a moment when the body says it's enough and they go down injured.

"Bernardo and the other players, Joao, they could not have a normal pre-season, they were injured, to get rhythm in these games was good for them."

City have been without all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero since June due to a knee injury but he could make his first appearance of the season against Arsenal.

However, Gabriel Jesus, who has missed each of the team's past four matches, will continue to sit out.

"Sergio is training well and we're happy," Guardiola said. "Every team needs a striker, and we played without them in the first days. He's been training well and we're happy to see him back on the pitch after a long, long time.

"[Jesus] was injured. In some muscles you can take a risk and there are others where you cannot. He has an injury in the front part of his leg. If there was another incident we would lose him for a very long time. I don't know [how long he will be out]."

Saturday's game at the Etihad Stadium will see Guardiola go up against his former assistant Mikel Arteta, who has impressed the Catalan with his work in north London.

"Maybe we should clarify who is the master and who is the apprentice?" said Guardiola.

"We didn't have any doubts about what he's doing in a short period. He's 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 in the position they were a long, long time ago. He's doing really well in all competitions and he's a competitor, a fighter, [with] clear things on the pitch.

"All the people who love him are more than happy with what he's doing in London."

Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus is set to be sidelined until at least the middle of next month after he was withdrawn from Brazil's squad to face Bolivia and Peru in their opening 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

The nature of Jesus' injury has not been disclosed, although the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) confirmed in a statement that City informed them of 23-year-old's setback on Wednesday.

"The English team contacted the doctor of the Brazilian National Team, Rodrigo Lasmar, reporting the athlete's injury detected after the game against Wolves on Monday in the Premier League," the statement read.

Hertha Berlin forward Matheus Cunha has been added to Tite's squad, earning a first senior call-up after top scoring for Brazil's Under-23s in the CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic Tournament earlier this year.

Jesus completed the scoring in an impressive 3-1 win at Molineux and looked set for an extended run in Pep Guardiola's starting XI, especially as Sergio Aguero continues his rehabilitation from meniscus surgery.

As it is, the City boss will now be without a specialist senior centre-forward for Sunday's visit of Leicester City, with an EFL Cup tie at Burnley and a Premier League trip to Leeds United to negotiate before the international break that Jesus will miss.

Teenage striker Liam Delap marked his senior debut in Thursday's cup tie against Bournemouth with a well-taken goal and gives Guardiola an intriguing option in up front, although it is more likely Raheem Sterling will revert to a central attacking role in the league, with Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne among the options who could be deployed as a false nine.

After overcoming Bournemouth 2-1, Guardiola bemoaned the fact he might only have 13 senior players fit to face Leicester.

Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva and Oleksandr Zinchenko all returned from the previous international break with injuries and Nicolas Otamendi missed out in midweek due to "niggles", although the Argentina centre-back has since been touted as a makeweight in a reported deal to bring Ruben Dias to City from Benfica.

Ilkay Gundogan contracted coronavirus last week and Aymeric Laporte is yet to feature this season having only recently returned to training after his own positive test for COVID-19.

Manchester City could be without star striker Sergio Aguero for the first two months of their Premier League campaign.

Aguero missed the conclusion of last season, including City's dispiriting 3-1 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Lyon, after suffering meniscus damage during June's 5-0 win over Burnley.

The 32-year-old Argentina international had to undergo surgery and was operated on in Barcelona by Dr Ramon Cugat, City manager Pep Guardiola's preferred surgeon.

Initially there had been hope Aguero could play a part in the latter stages of the 2019-20 Champions League and the player posted footage of himself dribbling a ball at City's Etihad Campus training base to social media this week.

But Guardiola looks set to be without the club's all-time leading scorer for a considerable time beyond Monday's trip to face a Wolves side who beat City twice last season.

"We knew that the injury was difficult," Guardiola said. "He is doing the [recovery], in maybe one month or two months he will be ready.

"Two months, because he has to come back on the pitch and regain the physical condition.

"Sergio was out for a long time and Sergio is not a guy who regains the physical condition quick, so I think in one month or two months he will be ready."

The time-frame outlined by Guardiola could mean Aguero misses City's first three Champions League group games of the season, along with Liverpool's visit to the Etihad Stadium on November 7.

Opta focus - Sterling and Jesus must find clinical edge in Aguero's absence

Earlier in the transfer window, it appeared possible Guardiola would have Aguero's international team-mate Lionel Messi to call upon.

As it is, a considerable weight of the attacking burden at City will now fall upon Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling.

Sterling and Jesus enjoyed their most prolific seasons individually in 2019-20, scoring 31 and 23 goals respectively across all competitions.

However, both missed glorious chances during the second half of that sapping defeat to Lyon, with Sterling's particularly glaring as he blazed over a gaping goal from five yards.

A look at how the Brazil and England forwards compare to Aguero in terms of their Premier League numbers does suggest City might be found wanting when it comes to having a clinical edge.

Although Sterling outscored Aguero in the English top flight for the first time in his career last term - scoring 20 to his team-mate's 16 - the former Atletico Madrid striker's goals came at a rate of one every 91 minutes, compared to Sterling's average of one every 133 minutes. Jesus' 14 Premier League goals came in at one every 144.8 minutes.

Aguero's conversion rate of 21.05 per cent also stood above his team-mates, although Sterling ran him close on 20.2 per cent. Jesus netted from 13.86 per cent of his 101 shots, which amounted to more attempts than Sterling (99) and Aguero (76).

However, the spectre of the Lyon game looms - as it does over much surrounding Guardiola and his squad for their forthcoming season - when considering Opta's 'big chances' metric.

Despite his well-earned reputation, Aguero was not infallible in such situations, converting 52 per cent of his big chances with 13 scored and 12 missed.

Sterling's big chance conversion rate was 42.2 per cent, with 19 missed and 14 scored, while Jesus scored from only 29.4 per cent of his most gilt-edged opportunities.

The 23-year-old Jesus missed 24 big chances, netting only 10. Those are numbers that will have to improve considerably in Aguero's absence if Guardiola's City are to once again locate the relentless rhythm that brought them back-to-back Premier League titles and make a case for dethroning Liverpool.

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