Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte could be out of action for up to a month with a hamstring injury, manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.
Laporte was forced off in the first half of Wednesday’s stunning Champions League victory at Real Madrid. It was just his eighth appearance of an injury-ravaged season.
Guardiola said: “He has a hamstring injury, so that is normally three weeks or one month, more or less.
“We tried to avoid it but unfortunately it has happened after four or five months out and then going directly into a big game. It sometimes happens.”
Laporte, 25, suffered knee ligament damage in August and then had a setback on his return in January, keeping him out for a further month. The clash at the Bernabeu was just the third game of his latest comeback.
The Frenchman has been sorely missed this season with his absence arguably one of the chief reasons why the champions have failed to mount a strong defence of their Premier League title.
This latest setback could hamper City’s quest for silverware on other fronts. Laporte will definitely miss this weekend’s Carabao Cup final against Aston Villa and is unlikely to be back for the second leg against Real in three weeks’ time.
He will also miss an FA Cup tie at Sheffield Wednesday as well as a derby against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Guardiola says Laporte will need strong character to come through his latest lay-off.
The City boss said: “It is tough but they have to overcome these situations. Life is not easy and always in the world the people who survive overcome the bad moments.
“It is what it is. Accept it and work harder to come back in the best condition as possible.”
City will now turn their attention to Sunday’s showpiece against Villa at Wembley. Victory would give City a sixth domestic trophy in succession after winning all three major pieces of silverware last season and the past two Community Shields.
Guardiola said: “Since we won the Carabao Cup as our first title together, we have played 11 competitions. If we win on Sunday, we will have won eight. Eight out of 11 at this level is incredible, and it would be the last six domestic titles in a row.
“There are no words to express my gratitude to these players. It is honestly so difficult to do it and to maintain that.”
City’s victory at the Bernabeu in midweek was a memorable one but Guardiola did not spend long celebrating.
He said: “The night after Madrid, we were calm but when we landed back here, Madrid was absolutely gone in my mind and I was thinking about Aston Villa. That is the only way clubs become stronger every year.”
City and Guardiola have had a tough time off the field lately, most notably with the club banned from European competition for the next two years. Guardiola has also had his emails hacked.
Guardiola said: “Always there are many things off the pitch. Managers today sometimes focus more on that.
“Johan Cruyff told me once that the problem with the managers at the big clubs is that 70 or 80 per cent is issues off the pitch and just 20 on the pitch. At the time I thought, ‘He’s crazy’. But it was true. We have to handle it, help the club and focus on what we love.”
In some positive news for City, winger Leroy Sane was due to step up his comeback with a run-out for City’s Under-23s against Arsenal on Friday. The German has been out since suffering a knee injury in the Community Shield in August.