John Stones has limped off the field after less than an hour played of the Manchester derby, worsening Manchester City’s defensive injury crisis.
The England centre-back had only recently returned from injury himself, and with Aymeric Laporte a long term absentee, Pep Guardiola will be concerned that the injury Stones suffered will see him without his two first choice central defenders for the busy festive period.
City were trailing 2-0 when he was withdrawn, being replaced by Nicolas Otamendi, who scored to make it 2-1, which is how the game finished.
The Argentine is the only other recognised senior central defender at the club, but Fernandinho, a central midfielder pressed into service further back, was given the start by Guardiola.
City end the game 14 points behind Liverpool, who had cruised to a 3-0 win away at Bournemouth earlier in the day to extend their lead at the top of the table.
Laporte has not appeared in the Premier League since August, missing 12 games, which have seen City lose four times.
Stones had played all 90 minutes of five consecutive league games before he was an unused substitute in Tuesday’s victory over Burnley.
Before that run of games, he had appeared only twice in the league, missing six of the first eight matches for the two-time defending champions.
Oleksandr Zinchenko is another absentee at the back for City, the left-back not having appeared since October 6, and has undergone a knee surgery. He’s close to returning to fitness, but was not available for selection in Saturday’s game.
Despite the crisis in defence, Guardiola has repeatedly said he will not go into the market in January, saying the club can’t afford replacements.
The club did not sign a replacement for Vincent Kompany over the summer, after he left to become player-manager at Anderlecht.
They did sign defensive midfielder Rodri, who has been forced to deputise alongside Fernandinho on a number of occasions this season.
The club do have highly rated Erik Garcia from the academy who may be capable of filling in, but he has never appeared in the top-flight.
The extent of Stones’ injury is unknown, but he has had several long layoffs in the last couple of seasons.