Sergio Aguero has lost his race to be fit for the crucial Premier League clash with leaders Liverpool, with Pep Guardiola confirming he is “not ready”.
The Manchester City striker had hoped to have recovered from a hamstring injury in time to face the champions in Sunday’s game at Etihad Stadium.
Aguero missed the start of the season with a knee injury and then suffered a muscle setback just a week into his return.
He was back on the training pitch earlier this week but is not fit enough to face Liverpool, although there is better news about Gabriel Jesus, who is available.
The Brazilian returned in midweek, scoring in the Champions League victory over Olympiacos and could start against Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Meanwhile, Guardiola agreed with Jurgen Klopp that the fixture between City and Liverpool is “the most difficult game in the world of football”.
The two sides have dominated English football over recent seasons and will rekindle their huge rivalry at the Etihad Stadium.
Asked whether he agreed with the Liverpool manager’s statement, Guardiola said: “Absolutely. Not all the time - but 90 or 95% of the time - I agree with Jurgen.”
Liverpool are currently top of the Premier League and five points clear of City having played a game more, but Guardiola denied it was a must-win game so early in the season and says the two clubs are not the only title challengers.
“It’s an important game but, like the presidential election in America, all the votes must be counted. [There are] a a lot of points to play for,” he joked.
"Of course it is important, we cannot deny it but it is just the seventh game and there are a lot of points to play for. We know we have to do a good performance to beat them, we won and lost in the past. We are going to do our best to beat them."
The City boss believes Liverpool remain the favourites to win the title but says Leicester, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal have shown in their early season form that they are capable of mounting a challenge.
"They are the biggest favourite but I think with what happened with the pandemic the situation is a bit different," he said.
"I see other teams strong: Leicester maintained the level from last season apart from the last month and a half of it when they dropped points but now have incredibly solid results from their starting XI and substitutions.
"Arsenal made a big step forward to be contenders; at Tottenham, Mourinho has the team what he wants; Chelsea are so stable now, not conceding goals and scoring a lot and have a huge squad for rotating top players.
"Manchester United in this moment is not in terms of results but we saw the quality they had last season, we suffered a lot in results and up front they are incredibly fast and clinical.
"They are top class. I think this season will be a lot of teams being there. The last five to 10 games will be important to arrive being there to fight for the title. Hopefully we can be there and arrive at the end with a chance to fight for the title."