Vincent Kompany is very worried by his latest injury lay-off, Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has revealed. The City captain has struggled with persistent calf problems this season and is expected to be out until at least the end of February.
Kompany returned to action as a substitute against Sunderland on Boxing Day only to have to leave the pitch nine minutes later. The defender has started just eight Premier League games this season, and the fact City have conceded just one goal in those matches indicates his importance to the team.
The cause of Kompany’s breakdowns is as yet a mystery, with the 29-year-old consulting different specialists in an effort to find an answer.
7 - Man City have kept 7 clean sheets in 10 games with Kompany starting and just two in 21 without him. Skipper. pic.twitter.com/xOSTlX9s3P— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 12, 2016
Pellegrini said: “He is very concerned, which is why he’s trying to recover as soon as he can. He’s doing all different examinations to try and understand the reasons why he is having so many injuries.
“Of course he wants to play. He is a very professional player. He is the first one who is very worried about his situation, which is why he is going everywhere to ask different specialists what is the reason.
“I think that is the professional way to work when you have problems that don’t allow you to play in your normal way. I think you must find every way to see if you can find a solution.
“Maybe there’s not a solution or maybe this can be his last injury but I think he has a very good attitude and he is doing everything he can to return as soon as he can.”
Pellegrini accepts it is not ideal to have a captain that is unable to influence matches but he is not thinking of replacing Kompany. The City boss said: “I think he deserves to have a lot of support at this time and not try to criticise by taking the captaincy away.”
Nicolas Otamendi and Martin Demechelis will continue in central defence against Palace on Saturday in the absence of Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala (hamstring). Palace boss Alan Pardew remains without the injured Yannick Bolasie for today but could again have Dwight Gayle available after the forward’s return to training.
He is a reported transfer target for Norwich but the manager said: “At the moment he is retained as our player and we’re not scoring a lot of goals so I’m looking forward to him coming back.”
Connor Wickham is expected to return to the starting XI.
Sergio Aguero is a “mix of Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi” according to Manchester City team-mate Bacary Sagna. And the full-back believes the Etihad outfit’s lethal weapon has the opposition running scared again as he proves to be key to City’s hopes of success this season.
After returning from more injury problems, Aguero looks a lot sharper with two of his 11 goals coming in the last four games, and denied more only by resilient Everton defending and the heroics of keeper Tim Howard in Wednesday’s goalless Premier League draw.
His third-placed side face Crystal Palace on Saturday with Sagna convinced the Argentine striker has the attributes of the game’s attacking greats.
“To me, he is a mix of Henry and Messi,” said the Frenchman, also a former team-mate of Henry’s at Arsenal and the national team.
“In smaller spaces Sergio manages to keep the ball well. He showed against Norwich [in the FA Cup] that he can be quite tricky and selfish to score that goal.He is one key player for us. He’s done it a lot in the past and he can do it again.
“He has that difference, ability, to make him a top, top striker. He’s unbelievable.
“Some players will say he doesn’t score enough this time, but other teams aren’t stupid – they give him more attention, they bring more players around him. We have to find another solution to help him. Maybe we have to step up and other players have to show more character to try and score themselves.”
With nine goals already, and just two shy of his best-ever season’s tally at Liverpool, Raheem Sterling could be one of those players, but the frontman was left frustrated against the Toffees when denied an injury-time penalty after being brought down by John Stones.
“I don’t get those,” he said afterwards.
And having also seen a strong claim by Jesus Navas rejected a week earlier in the 2-1 League Cup semi-final first-leg loss at Everton, and Aguero angry when similarly turned down at title rivals Leicester after a Gokhan Inler challenge, Sagna admits it is damaging City’s pursuit of trophies.
“It’s not the first time,” he added of the penalty pain. “In the beginning we didn’t say anything, but now…
“It was the case against Leicester with Aguero [as well]. The whole team are being unfairly treated. I don’t know why because it isn’t the first time it’s happened this season.
“What do we have to do to win a penalty if we get the touch in the box? When it’s against us, it’s clearly a penalty and we’re punished straight away.
“Mistakes are natural, they’re (officials) human beings, but at the end of the day we’re not getting the penalties – against Everton, Leicester and many other games. It can be a problem.
“I don’t want to blame the referees because he’s the only man on the pitch, but maybe have someone behind the goal.”
Liverpool play host to Manchester United in what used to be a battle of the giants but both clubs are now in transition with Louis van Gaal under pressure at Old Trafford and Jurgen Klopp yet to make any real impression at Anfield.
LIVERPOOL VS MANCHESTER UNITED
Andy Gray: Liverpool will approach this game in exactly the same way they dealt with Arsenal; start quick and put United under pressure straight from the kick-off. Both teams look a bit vulnerable in central defence so it should be an entertaining game but I think Liverpool are the better side at the moment and they can win this 2-1.
Richard Keys: Here we are with two teams, battling for fourth who at one time were battling for the biggest prizes in Europe and as they are as poor as each other at the moment I will go 1-1.
STOKE CITY VS ARSENAL
RK: If Arsenal come out of this with a win it will be their most impressive victory of the season and it could be the result that ensures they win the title. I think they can do it. 1-2.
TOTTENHAM VS SUNDERLAND
RK: Sam Allardyce will get his side to sit deep and hit on the counter attack and Jermain Defoe would love to score against his old team and he might do that but Tottenham are too good. 3-1.
BOURNEMOUTH VS NORWICH
RK: An interesting game with Norwich capable of raising their game when you least expect it but I like what Eddie Howe is doing at Bournemouth and they should get all three points here. 2-0.
CHELSEA VS EVERTON
RK: I could say the same thing about Guus Hiddink that I said about Klopp with this expectation that he was going to perform miracles at Chelsea. It hasn’t happened and I think bottom half might be their lot this year. There is a lot of potential in the Everton side and I agree with Andy that they can get a draw. 1-1.
MAN CITY VS CRYSTAL PALACE
RK: City have won two in five since Pep Guardiola said he was leaving Bayern Munich and I did think it would affect Manuel Pellegrini’s players. However, they should be good enough to win this. 1-0.
NEWCASTLE VS WEST HAM
RK: Newcastle are playing much better now although their results haven’t reflected that. Bilic has done really well to keep West Ham where they are despite the injuries and although they are good on the road, they will get one wrong somewhere and this will be it. 2-1.
SOUTHAMPTON VS WEST BROM
RK: It was good to see Southampton get back on track the other night but any game against a Tony Pulis team is going to be difficult. West Brom will come with belief. 1-1.
ASTON VILLA VS LEICESTER
AG: Leicester’s unbelievable run goes on and I just can’t see them losing this. Villa will feel better after that scruffy victory over Palace and they might just get a point here. 1-1.
RK: Many still don’t believe in Leicester but I do. Their win at Spurs was huge and we can’t keep saying they will fall away – Leicester are in the title race and it’s an unbelievable story. They should be far too good for Villa. 0-2.
SWANSEA VS WATFORD
RK: Right now I would say Swansea will finish the season in the bottom three. I hear the chairman is making more decisions on team selection than he should and that is never good. Watford are strong enough to nick the points. 0-1.