Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany faces an anxious wait to see if he will be picked for Sunday’s Premier League derby at Old Trafford but manager Manuel Pellegrini has played down any rift with the Belgian defender.
Kompany has not started either of City’s last two games, since the international break, and could find himself on the bench again against Manchester United in the 170th derby.
“I need to choose a starting 11 every week that I think best for that game. Other players must wait. It’s exactly the same for all the players,” Pellegrini told reporters.
Kompany injured his calf in September but returned to action this month for Belgium — a situation that reportedly upset Pellegrini who felt he was taking a risk.
Since then Kompany was an unused substitute against Bournemouth and came on in the final minutes in the Champions League win over Sevilla on Wednesday.
“I’m not punishing Vincent. I have no problems in my relations with Vincent,” Pellegrini, whose side have a two-point lead over United at the top of the table, said.
“It’s crucial to play with the best players for the moment. Football is moments, now, (Eliaquim) Mangala and (Nicolas)Otamendi are doing well.”
After scoring 11 goals in their last two Premier League games, City are buoyant and victory at Old Trafford on Sunday would be a statement of intent.
Although Pellegrini tried to play down the hype on Friday.
“The Premier League is difficult, every one of the 38 games you must play as a final,” he said.
“It’s a match of six points because you are playing the team that is behind you, but it will not be a game to decide the title. I think for the city it is always a special game.”
Pellegrini will be without striker Sergio Aguero who was fit enough to take photos with British Prime Minister David Cameron and China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday, but will not be in the picture on Sunday because of a hamstring injury.
David Silva and Samir Nasri are also out but with the likes of baby-faced Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling in form, Pellegrini is confident.
“I think that our team, if you remember last season, we had a lot of different ways to play,” Pellegrini said.
“Last season we had the four strikers injured and we played with (James) Milner and he scored two goals I think in two or three games and our team scored 15 goals without strikers.
“We have players with characteristics that can play different ways, and every one of them can score.”
Pellegrini defended the club’s fans after UEFA opened disciplinary action after some of them booed the Champions League anthem before Wednesday’s defeat of Sevilla.
“For me, the fans pay for their ticket and they are free to express themselves with how they feel with order and respect.”