Pep Guardiola has admitted Sergio Agüero’s absence would have a “big impact” on Manchester City’s attempt to win the Champions League for the first time.
The striker is expected to be out for about five to six weeks after knee surgery in Barcelona on Wednesday. City resume their Champions League campaign in just over six weeks with a last-16 game against Real Madrid on 7 or 8 August, holding a 2-1 lead from the first leg.
Guardiola, asked how it would affect City’s hopes should Agüero be unavailable, said: “Of course the impact is big; to win the Champions League you have to arrive in the best moment, in the best condition as possible, but at the same time the situation is what it is. Sometimes when this happens teams make a step forward with other players to solve situations, so that is what we have to do.”
The manager is still hopeful Agüero could feature against Madrid and, if City progress, in the mini-tournament in Portugal that follows from 12-23 August. “Hopefully he can help us against Real Madrid – and if we’re good enough to go through, maybe [too] for the next rounds.”
Agüero tweeted on Wednesday that “everything went well” with the surgery but his chances of playing another domestic game this season may be over. The striker was injured during Monday’s 5-0 win over Burnley and had been hopeful of missing no more than a month but the operation is set to keep him out for longer.
The Premier League season ends in four and a half weeks and the FA Cup final, which City could stillreach, is the following weekend. Guardiola is confident Gabriel Jesus can replace Agüero, though Ilkay Gündogan, Raheem Sterling or Bernardo Silva may also be deployed at No 9 because of the regularity of matches.
“We don’t have any doubts about Gabriel,” he said. “The only doubt is that not one single player can play every three days. Raheem can play in this position, even Gündogan and Bernardo. Not like a [proper] striker but we can use them.”
Agüero has at least one more year at City, with his contract due to expire in summer 2021, but Guardiola is intent Jesus should remain at the club even if the Brazilian’s playing time is limited.
“We want to keep him and we’re delighted at what he is as a player and a person in the locker room,” he said. “An exceptional guy. A young player, we’re delighted. We have no doubts with or without Agüero. We have two incredible strikers. [And also] Gabriel can play with Agüero.”
Guardiola admitted before Thursday’s game at Chelsea that, with City’s hopes of retaining their title all but mathematically over, he is attaching considerable importance to the FA Cup. His team play their quarter-final at Newcastle on Saturday followed by a league game against Liverpool.
Todo salió bien y pronto comenzaré con la recuperación. Muchas gracias al Dr. Cugat y a su equipo y a todos por tanto apoyo//Everything went well, and I’ll soon begin recovery. A big thanks to Dr Cugat and his team – and to all of you for your support 🤟🏽 pic.twitter.com/Frm07cN3WF
— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) June 24, 2020
“We can’t deny that we have one eye on the Newcastle game,” he said. “Chelsea and Liverpool are prestigious and important games but our game against Newcastle is a final for us.”
Liverpool are due at the Etihad Stadium next Thursday but a decision is still yet to be made on whether to move that game to a neutral venue. “We will follow the instructions of the Premier League,” Guardiola said.