Stone Blow for City, Ruled of out of Shakhtar Clash
Manchester City’s defensive woes deepened ahead of their opening Champions League clash away to Shakhtar Donetsk as centre back John Stones was ruled out with a muscle injury.
City manager Pep Guardiola broke the news during his pre-match news conference.
“He made a pass and was injured,” Guardiola told reporters, confirming the injury occurred during Tuesday’s training session. “No problems, he (Fernandinho) can deal with it and he will do well because my players are well.
“We will create something, it is what it is.”
Fresh from a shock 3-2 Premier League defeat by promoted Norwich City and with French centre back Aymeric Laporte out injured until January or February, the news that Stones could now miss five weeks gives Guardiola a headache.
“Football is not how you handle good situations, but how you handle bad ones,” he said. “We won seven titles and no one gave us anything, we did it ourselves.
“I am ready for the challenge. I like this situation.”
Despite City beating Shakhtar 3-0 away last season, the Ukrainians are dangerous opponents, especially on their own turf, and Guardiola will likely have a patched-up defence with Nicolas Otamendi their only available established centre back.
“Big challenge. So for me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge, just one central defender in Nico,” Guardiola said.
“But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain.”
Fernandinho, naturally a defensive midfielder, is expected to partner Otamendi in the heart of City’s defence.
Midfielder Phil Foden is also out of Wednesday’s match through illness. “He has a virus problem with the stomach. He will miss this game and maybe the next,” Guardiola said.
City became the first English team to beat Shakhtar away last season, but Guardiola is wary of the Ukrainians, having lost to them the previous season, also in the Champions League.
“They are incredible on the counter attack and playing short,” he said. “Hopefully we can play in good rhythm. The first game in Champions League is important.
“Every time I play against Shakhtar the way they play is very similar. It’s really tough, especially the first one, that team was incredibly good. Always it is tough.”