Manchester City have suffered a major injury setback in the Premier League title race with defender Ruben Dias expected to miss up to six weeks with a hamstring problem.
Dias sustained the injury in the first half of Tuesday’s 2-0 FA Cup win over Peterborough, and with Nathan Ake also forced off in that match with a less serious problem, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are City’s only senior central defenders available for Sunday’s Manchester derby.
“It will be four to six weeks. It happens in a season,” Guardiola said.
“I don’t love it, we need him – a lot. Ruben is massively important for us but he is not there.
“I’m not going to cry. We have just two central defenders – it is what it is.”
The timescale for Dias’ injury makes it uncertain whether or not he will return in time for City’s match against Liverpool on April 10th.
Before then, City take a 5-0 lead into the second leg of their Champions League clash against Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday night before Premier League matches against Crystal Palace and Burnley, as well as the FA Cup trip to Southampton.
The 24-year-old has made a huge impact since joining City from Benfica for £62million in September 2020, but his absence will offer John Stones the chance to re-establish himself as a regular fixture in City’s back four.
“We have 15 players available but we’ve had 15 players in the last months and the people said we were lucky with Covid, you know?” Guardiola added. “We’re going to fight.”
Dias’ absence will make City’s job of taming Cristiano Ronaldo more difficult on Sunday. Though Ronaldo has been in poor form by his own lofty standards — with only one goal in his last 10 appearances, Guardiola remains wary of a player City came close to signing in the summer.
“He’s been one of the greatest in the last 15 years, alongside (Lionel) Messi,” he said. “What these two guys have done, we’re not going to see again…
“As a finisher he’s exceptional, I’m not going to disguise it was a joy to watch him these years. We have to explode our game, our strength to avoid Cristiano close to the box, because there he is almost unstoppable.
“I remember when we played there and we were winning 1-0 and in control, perfect, and then the first time arrived he made a chance and Eddy made an incredible save. He hadn’t touched the ball but nearly scored. That is the quality and ability that he has.”
That moment came in City’s 2-0 win at Old Trafford in November, a match in which the scoreline failed to reflect the dominance of Guardiola’s side as United unravelled in the final weeks of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign.
But the visitors are a different proposition under Ralf Rangnick as they try to hold onto the final Champions League place.
“I see the weakness points they have and I see the strengths points they have, but if I see this as an easy game, I’m not going to sleep well,” Guardiola said.
“To sleep well I have to see the best of them but when they don’t have the ball I try to find the weaknesses that they have. But of course always I think the best version of all of them.”
Though a derby is always extra special for the fans, Guardiola said his only focus is on picking up more points to keep Liverpool, who can close the gap to three points by beating West Ham on Saturday, at bay,
“I know how important the derby is — it’s to help us win the Premier League,” Guardiola said. “We have to win almost all the games to be champions. But if we lose this game and win the Premier League — I would sign for that right now.”