Manchester City’s defensive woes have increased after John Stones pulled up injured in training ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk.
Manager Pep Guardiola fears he could be without the England centre-back for up to six weeks after Stones suffered a thigh injury during a morning session in Kharkiv.
The Premier League champions are already without Aymeric Laporte until the new year and, after Vincent Kompany left at the end of last season, Nicolas Otamendi is now the club’s only fit senior centre-back.
Midfielder Fernandinho, who has been training as a defender in the early weeks of the campaign, is now set to be pressed into action as a makeshift centre-back in the Group C clash against Shakhtar.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Guardiola said: “John Stones was injured this morning. (He could be out) a month – four, five or six weeks. It is a muscular problem.”
Stones’ injury further weakens City as they attempt to win a third successive Premier League title and win Europe’s elite competition for the first time.
But Guardiola sees it as a challenge and he is determined to make the most of it.
He said: “It’s a big challenge. For me as a manager it is an incredible challenge.
“We’ve got just one central defender in Nico – but I believe a lot in the something people don’t know, which is the spirit and commitment.
“We have to get 11 players out and on the pitch and make an extra effort. I like it, (the chance) to prove myself and show we are able to find a solution for the team, to make an incredible step forward and find a solution to this problem that we have.
“It’s not a problem, it is a challenge. They will do it, no problem. My players are the best.
“Football is not how you handle the good situations, it is how you handle the bad ones. The ideal situation does not exist in football, it is how you approach the challenge and I am ready for the challenge. I like it, I like to love this situation.”
Guardiola also confirmed midfielder Phil Foden had not travelled to Ukraine due to a stomach virus but Benjamin Mendy was with the squad and in contention to make his first appearance of the season.
New Shakhtarcoach Luis Castro has laughed off suggestions Guardiola knows his side better than him.
It is the third successive season the two clubs have been drawn against each other the group stages of Europe’s top club competition.
Guardiola also knows the Ukrainian club well having faced them 11 times during his managerial career.
Castro has only been in charge at Shakhtar for eight games after taking over from Paulo Fonseca in the summer.
Castro said: “If you watch the games it is one thing, but to really know the team you have to train them.
“Watching is not enough. I am training every day and I know what my players are doing. I am sure I know my team better than my opponent does!”
Shakhtar are the dominant force in Ukrainian football having won their domestic double for the past three seasons.
However, they have been unable to play in their home city of Donetsk since war broke out in the region five years ago.
Castro, who will be back on the bench after missing his side’s last game through illness, said: “There are some things that you cannot possibly change, unfortunately.
“The Donbass Arena would normally have 35,000 for each game. It is a great atmosphere, they are great fans there.
“We are not as well supported here but such is life and there are people that do support us from a long distance.”