Manchester: Pep Guardiola will monitor Benjamin Mendy's return to regular first-team football with Manchester City closely as he attempts to ensure that the France full-back suffers no repeat of his persistent injury problems.
Mendy has endured a frustrating 18 months playing for Guardiola's side, with a knee injury ruling him out of virtually all of last season.
This campaign has been scarcely better, with different knee problems limiting him to 11 starts in all competitions to date.
His latest, minor, setback came last week when the 24-year-old returned after more than two months on the sidelines as a substitute late in the League Cup semi-final win over Burton.
Mendy suffered swelling to his knee after his 30-minute run-out, prompting his manager to leave him out of the weekend FA Cup win over Burnley, and Guardiola will again take a cautious approach when he names his side to play at Newcastle in the Premier League on Tuesday.
"With this kind of injury, when you come back immediately to the real competition always you have to keep the balance," he said.
"I think it will happen in the next month," he added. "We have to have him fit and good but we demand a lot of his knee. He's going to stop a little bit, three or four days.
"Football is not just physical, run up and down, it's what you have to do, read the situations. He was out for a long time, he has got to go step-by-step, not game, game, game – or, after that, he will not survive."
With City still active on four fronts, the City manager is clearly playing the long game with his extrovert left-back, which means his chances of being used for the weekend meeting with Arsenal also look remote.
No room for error
Guardiola has conceded that his team may not be able to lose another game – or even drop a point – for the remainder of this season if they are to overhaul leaders Liverpool and their four-point advantage at the top of the table.
City could still break their own Premier League record of 100 points, were they to win every one of their remaining 15 games. The Blues could finish with a maximum 101 points, while Jurgen Klopp's side have a maximum 105 to play for.
"The players know it – we spoke about it, they know that there is no margin for error. Before, 85, 87, 89 points you could be champions – now you have to be over 90 points," he said.
Captain Vincent Kompany's long-standing injury problems continue at City, with the Belgian limited to just six league starts this season.
With the 32-year-old out of contract in the summer, speculation has mounted over whether Kompany will be offered a new deal, although Guardiola would like to see him remain at the club in some capacity.
"He has something special to represent the club in the best way," said the City boss.
"He is very special in many ways, in personality. What he has done especially, on and off the pitch. He can speak five, six, seven languages and he communicates quite well and we need him."
Updated Date: Jan 29, 2019 13:42:30 IST