Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany will not be an automatic selection when he returns from injury, insists Pep Guardiola.
Kompany has been plagued by calf issues in recent seasons and tore a thigh muscle during the Champions League semi-final defeat to Real Madrid last May.
The Belgium international is closing in on a return to competitive action, but City boss Guardiola believes he will face stiff competition for a starting berth from Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Aleksandar Kolarov - despite the latter being more at home at left-back.
Asked if he will soon be facing a selection dilemma in the centre-back position, Guardiola said: "Absolutely not. They have to compete with each other. We'll see on the pitch what is the best for that game.
"That's the best way to arrive in April or May with a chance to fight to win the titles. We need the players competing with each other.
"They have to know if they don't play good that there's another one beside them and the next time he is going to play.
"I need Vincent because I know his quality. I need him to put pressure on John, Nicolas, Kolarov - all of them. Vincent is close [to returning] but not yet."
Guardiola has been encouraged by strides made in the medical department and is hoping to cut down on the number of muscular injuries sustained by players.
"I am lucky with the medical staff, I am really impressed. The players are lucky. They are in good hands," he continued.
"The demands of every game are so high. The recovery and preparation are important. We try to do everything to take care of the players - in the sense of training, the way they eat their food, the rest with good vitamins. Without that you cannot compete at a level every three days for 11 months.
"That is our target [to cut down the number of muscle-related injuries]. The most expensive thing for the club is the only player who is injured.
"We work on regeneration. We have a lot of people on our staff just for that, to help the players to avoid becoming injured. That is going to happen. It's impossible to avoid it completely. But until now, I am so happy.
"I have tried to be a little bit more involved [in the medical side] because I'm curious about what they do."