Pep Guardiola feels Fernandinho and Kyle Walker are both capable of filling in for injured Manchester City centre-back Aymeric Laporte.
The defender, who earned a long-awaited call-up by France this week, was taken off on a stretcher during Saturday’s 4-0 Premier League win at home to Brighton and Hove Albion.
Laporte was described by Guardiola in the build-up to the game as the best left-sided defender in Europe but it is feared a right knee injury could rule him out for an extended period, with the 25-year-old joining Leroy Sane in the treatment room.
His absence left City temporarily with one fit senior centre-back, Nicolas Otamendi, although Guardiola confirmed John Stones should be available to face Norwich City after the international break, having recently suffered a hamstring strain.
City did not sign a central defender during the transfer window, instead bringing in Joao Cancelo from Juventus, with fellow right-back Danilo heading in the opposite direction.
They failed to replace departing captain Vincent Kompany and ended an interest in Harry Maguire before Stones and Walker’s England team-mate joined rivals Manchester United for £80million.
“The club works incredibly well in all departments and sometimes we cannot afford it like other teams afford it and that is all,” Guardiola told reporters.
“We pay a lot of money for a lot of players, that is why we have a depth of squad with huge quality but we cannot do… the club tell me, ‘You have a limit, you cannot go forward’.
“‘Maybe in the future but not now, you cannot do it.’ I say, ‘Okay, you cannot do it so we cannot do it, so we are going with what we have’.
“But we don’t expect Leroy out for a long time and now Laporte, maybe, we wait but doesn’t look good, But it is what it is.
“During the season it happens and the other guys are going to make a step forward and one day we need to put Kyle Walker like a central defender, he is going to play central defender, so we are going to find solutions.
“I am sad for Leroy, I am sad for Laporte today, that is what I am concerned [about] – but we are going to move forward.”
— Manchester City (@ManCity) August 31, 2019
While Walker has played on the right of a back three for England, Fernandinho slotted into the heart of defence against Brighton and has filled the role for City on occasion.
Guardiola could also look to the club’s academy, where there are high hopes for Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis -18 and 17 respectively and yet to make a Premier League appearance between them.
“It happens because he is a nice guy, because he is open minded,” Guardiola said of versatile Brazil midfielder Fernandinho. “Normally the players know, ‘I am playing in that position, just that position, if not I don’t play’ and that is not the case [with Fernandinho].
“So he is a typical captain. He thinks for the group more than himself, but he is a guy who is incredibly respected in the locker room and by our staff. That is why he can do it.
“He needs some processes defensively, but he is intelligent and has a lot of experience and we will see.
“We will work – unfortunately now we cannot because it is the international break, but we are going to work on it and we need him in this position.
“Because right now we have John and Nico and Dinho and Eric Garcia, or Taylor Bellis – two young guys in the academy who are going to help us to do that.”