Pellegrini denies punishing Kompany

LONDON • Ahead of the Manchester derby, Manuel Pellegrini was forced to deny that he has a problem with Vincent Kompany after his captain played for Belgium following a return from injury.

But the Manchester City manager admitted he left the player out of their Champions League win over Sevilla because he was not best suited to the game.

Kompany has not started for City since the international break as Pellegrini also named him as a substitute for Saturday's 5-1 win over Bournemouth. This followed after Kompany played 59 minutes of Belgium's Euro 2016 qualifier against Israel.

He was picked by his national team despite Pellegrini stating Kompany was not able to represent his country due to a recent calf injury and the Israel match being effectively a dead rubber as Belgium had already qualified for the European Championship.

Asked about his relationship with Kompany, Pellegrini admitted he did not believe the central defender was the best option to start against the Spanish outfit.

The 29-year-old came on in stoppage time. In the 525 minutes that he has been on the field for City this season, they have conceded only one goal, keeping five clean sheets. They have played 645 minutes without him, conceding 12 and failing to register a single shutout.

"I'm not punishing Vincent, I have no problem," Pellegrini told a press conference.

"Every week I have to choose the starting XI best for that game, exactly the same for every player. I don't have any problem with Vincent. The other players must wait. It's the same for the other players in the squad."

Kompany suffered the calf injury in mid-September and Pellegrini said: "After one month or five weeks without playing or without training, you must be fit but you are not ready to play in important games."

City will definitely be without Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Samir Nasri, Fabian Delph and Gael Clichy for tomorrow's Manchester derby at Old Trafford.

City, the leaders, lead United by two points and Pellegrini denied the outcome of the fixture would decide who would be champions.

With striker Aguero out and Kevin de Bruyne scoring against Sevilla from a central forward position, Pellegrini hinted that the Belgian could be employed up front once again.

The £55 million (S$117.9 million) summer signing already has five goals in nine City appearances, and has set his sights on tormenting United.

"I am very excited. These are the moments you live for as a player," de Bruyne said. "There will be a lot of atmosphere. Great games and derbies are the most important games for the fans."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2015, with the headline 'Pellegrini denies punishing Kompany'. Print Edition | Subscribe