Manchester City’s star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is a doubt for Sunday’s derby against Manchester United, manager Pep Guardiola confirmed on the club’s official website.
The mercurial Belgian star picked up a back problem in the closing stages of the League Cup final win over Aston Villa last weekend.
De Bruyne also missed City’s FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday as a consequence.
The 28-year-old, who has arguably been City’s best player this season, told Guardiola that he feels better but it is too early to say whether he will be fit in time for the derby or not.
As such, De Bruyne will face a late fitness test before City decide what role he will play at Old Trafford.
“He is getting better,” Guardiola said. “Today we didn’t train and tomorrow he will improve.
“This morning he was with the physio and he said he feels better. Not perfect, but he feels better. We will see.”
Guardiola is also without key City defender Aymeric Laporte, who is ruled out for another couple of weeks with a hamstring injury.
The French centre-back has managed only seven appearances in the league this season, which has been a major factor in the 22-point gap between his side in second and Liverpool at the top of the table.
Speaking to the press, City boss Guardiola admitted that the title is beyond their reach, despite Liverpool’s slip up last weekend against Watford.
The Reds suffered their first defeat of the season in a 3-0 loss at Vicarage Road but Guardiola claimed that his side are only fighting for second in the Premier League.
“It’s always special,” he added when asked about the derby atmosphere.
“The situation this season is a little bit different because we are playing to improve and finish second, not to win the title. For them it is so important to qualify for Champions League.”
Guardiola also delivered an update on City winger Leroy Sane, who has not featured for the champions since August due to a knee injury he sustained in the Community Shield against Liverpool.
Sane has been training with the Elite Development Squad (EDS) of City and has featured in some youth games but is still a few weeks away from returning to first team action.
“He is making big progress but still he’s not 100% fit,” the boss explained.
“He has to be ready and fit to play official games right now. Maybe that will be good [more EDS games]. I think weeks and games will be good.
“He will feel it first himself because every week he is getting better and after I will try to give him minutes to get back as soon as possible.
“But, for this game, no.”
Opponents United are unbeaten in nine games in all competitions and will be hoping to stay in touch with Chelsea in fourth place.
City on the other hand will be keen to secure three points and show that there still might be a hint of a title challenge left.
United beat City 2-1 in the reverse fixture in what was perhaps their best performance of the season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.