Pellegrini: We can win titles without skipper Kompany
Manchester City are facing a battle to save Vincent Kompany's season after he broke down with a recurrence of a calf injury, which manager Manuel Pellegrini admits has baffled the club's medical team.
City's captain is expected to be out for several weeks after his attempted comeback against Sunderland on Saturday lasted just nine minutes.
It was Kompany's third calf injury of the season, and the issue is one of growing concern to Pellegrini ahead of a crucial month of fixtures.
The central defender has managed to start only eight of his team's 18 Premier League matches this season, but his influence when fit has been significant. City have conceded one league goal when he has played, and 19 when he has not.
Kompany will miss tomorrow evening's visit to leaders Leicester, and Pellegrini has yet to put a date on his return.
"We are trying to find the reason why he has so many injuries in his calf," Pellegrini said. "But that is a medical problem I cannot answer.
"We are going to do all the tests that he needs to understand why it is happening."
Kompany first suffered a calf injury during a Champions League defeat against Juventus on September 15, and caused controversy by returning to play for Belgium in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Israel four weeks later, before Pellegrini thought he was ready.
He was injured again during a 0-0 Premier League draw at Aston Villa on November 8, although still reported for international duty in the days that followed as his country prepared for friendlies against Italy and Spain.
The defender, though, was forced to return to Manchester after taking part in light training with Belgium, and spent the next seven weeks recovering before Saturday's comeback was aborted with a recurrence of the injury.
Pellegrini went so far as to suggest that City had to get used to playing without Kompany because of his poor fitness record.
The manager said: "This team is better with Vincent than without him. But if you review how many games we played over the last two seasons in which I've been here, I think Vincent has played a maximum of 70 per cent of the season.
"We won titles without him. This year, we are still involved in four competitions without him.
"We cannot think that all the mistakes that happen do so just because Vincent isn't playing. He's very important, but that doesn't mean we have to think that we're not going to make any mistakes with Vincent in the team, and that without him we cannot win."
In Kompany's absence, Pellegrini has fielded a central-defensive partnership worth more than £60million, but Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala have looked vulnerable and have yet to keep a clean sheet. Martin Demichelis, the other senior centre-back, has rarely been convincing.
"We've played the whole season with an average of six players injured in every game," said Pellegrini.
"Our team is stronger with Vincent, but without him we must try to continue being competitive. That depends on the performances of Mangala, Otamendi and Demichelis."
City's defence failed to keep a clean sheet against a woeful Sunderland side on Saturday, allowing Fabio Borini time and space for a consolation goal after taking a 4-0 lead by the 54th minute.
Pellegrini's side were terrific in attack, though, with the outstanding Kevin De Bruyne central to their best moments.
His perfect cross allowed Raheem Sterling to head in City's first and, after Yaya Toure had driven in a second goal, the Belgium winger delivered a free-kick with pace for Wilfried Bony to glance in a third. A sublime back-heel almost set up a fourth for David Silva soon after half-time, before De Bruyne slotted in the goal his display deserved.
However, the 24-year-old admitted he felt for his fellow Belgian having seen his return to fitness cut short.
"It's difficult to say because obviously we don't know yet what he (Kompany) has, hopefully it's not too bad." De Bruyne said.
"For him personally it's the hardest thing for the moment, I think.
"When you work so hard to come back and everything seems fine in the week and then you come on and you go quickly back again - it must be hard for him. We will be there to help him if he wants it."
Sunderland, who host Liverpool on Wednesday, are second from bottom after four straight defeats.
Manager Sam Allardyce made six changes to try to inspire improvement. It did not work.
"I think I have got to get the fear out of the players somehow," said the Sunderland boss.
"They have got to release themselves from the fear they are showing.
"We have got a hugely difficult period coming along, certainly with the players I have got now," he added.
"I have to try and make them more resilient and better equipped to beat Liverpool and Aston Villa - two massively important games coming up where the players need to be at their very best to try to achieve as many points as they can get."
Defender Sebastian Coates acknowledged: "We are getting cut adrift, we need the three points on Wednesday."