Pep Guardiola has admitted that Sergio Aguero is a doubt for Manchester City’s Premier League trip to Watford on Tuesday because of a muscle problem.
Aguero missed City’s 3-1 victory over Bournemouth on Saturday with a muscle strain, the Argentina forward watching from the stands as Guardiola’s team moved five points clear at the top of the table.
Gabriel Jesus was given a first league start since September 1 as Aguero sat out, but the Brazilian did not score, with Raheem Sterling the key figure as City secured a sixth successive league victory.
Sterling restored City’s lead with a close-range finish early in the second half after Bournemouth had gone in level at the interval when Callum Wilson’s header cancelled out Bernardo Silva’s opener.
A City side showing five changes produced an uneven performance, and victory was only made certain when Ilkay Gundogan touched in Leroy Sane’s low cross with 11 minutes left at the Etihad Stadium.
Aguero is City’s leading scorer this season, with 12 goals in all competitions.
And although Sterling has now equalled his league total of eight, Guardiola acknowledged Aguero would be missed if he doesn’t recover for the trip to Watford in midweek.
“I don’t know if Aguero will be fit. We will see. I base my decisions on doctors, physios, instinct and what I see. There are many reasons,” Guardiola said.
Guardiola acknowledged his team’s first-half performance was “flat”, but he was pleased to come away with a victory – his 400th as a manager – after a testing 2-2 Champions League draw at Lyon on Tuesday.
He claimed his attempt to improve the players against Bournemouth with a half-time team-talk did not work as well as he would have liked, and was grateful to Sterling for making the difference in the second half.
“It was a good win. After the Champions League, it is always tough,” Guardiola said.
“We had a lack of rhythm in the first half. Bournemouth are so fast up front and so hard to play against. They put so many balls into the box – they are so strong.
“We were flat but after, we were more aggressive and we changed the game. I asked them for more at half-time but my speech was ridiculous because in the first five or 10 minutes, it didn’t work – it was the same as the first half.
“Raheem Sterling changed the game and Leroy Sane was fantastic too. I don’t know what he ate but it will be on the menu for the next games.”
Sterling has made a habit of profiting against Bournemouth, and has now scored in each of his six Premier League appearances against them.
He almost scored a remarkable individual goal minutes before he did find the net, producing a mazy run past five opponents before seeing his shot deflect off Andrew Surman against the post.
By contrast, the finish for his goal was relatively straightforward, albeit after a stylish build-up, as he fed a pass for Danilo to shoot, then swept in the rebound after goalkeeper Asmir Begovic has failed to hold the ball.
Bournemouth, despite falling to a fourth successive league defeat, had plenty of reason for encouragement in their performance, and perhaps deserved more than their one goal, headed in by Wilson from a Simon Francis cross.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe said: “We nullified them for long periods and had moments ourselves when the ball could have bounced our way. It was a good time to score, right on half time.
“We haven’t done enough defensively and weren’t clinical enough in attack. We have an honest group of players and I can’t fault them at all.”