Pep Guardiola is desperate for Vincent Kompany to return to full fitness in time for a Champions League showdown with Barcelona on Wednesday as Manchester City's defence creaks during the Catalan's early reign.
City reeled off 10 consecutive wins to start Guardiola's tenure in dominant fashion domestically and in Europe, but the table-toppers have only kept a single clean sheet in their eight Premier League games so far and are winless in three after Saturday's 1-1 draw with Everton.
A switch to a back three failed to add stability at the Etihad Stadium as Gael Clichy's error allowed Romelu Lukaku to open the scoring with a goal either side of penalties missed by Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero.
Nolito spared his colleagues' blushes with an equaliser and home fans were further enthused by Kompany's first league appearance of the season - and his 300th in all competitions for City - as a last-minute substitute, though it came as an emergency striker.
Guardiola has been at pains to stress he will not allow Kompany to play until he is certain to remain fit, having seen a string of comebacks last season followed by swift injury recurrences.
Nevertheless, Kompany could be named in the starting XI at Camp Nou in mid-week, as Guardiola returns to his former team, who were boosted by the comeback from injury of their own talisman, Lionel Messi, as he scored off the bench in a 4-0 home win over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.
Guardiola is quoted by the Manchester Evening News as saying: "I need him. We need him.
"Today, it's tough. Every season is tougher.
"There are more games and more intensity, it is more demanding and there is more pressure on the players."