Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero will not be fit for Saturday’s match with Southampton, but manager Manuel Pellegrini expects the Argentine to play some part in next week’s top-of-the-table clash with Liverpool.
Aguero has scored 15 goals in 17 league matches this season, but has not featured since hurting his hamstring against Barcelona in the Champions League last month.
Third-placed City have 67 points, four behind leaders Liverpool and two off second-placed Chelsea with two matches in hand on both.
The return of 25-year-old would give his side a massive boost for the trip to Merseyside, a match that could go a long way to determining who will claim the Premier League title.
“It (Southampton) is too soon for Sergio,” Pellegrini told a news conference on Friday. “He has trained for only two days and needs more time. Perhaps one week more and he will be perfect for the game against Liverpool.
“We hope he will return and play an important role in our remaining matches but this match has come too soon for him. He needs more work to become 100 percent fit but he will be fine for next weekend.”
Before Liverpool they host eighth-placed Southampton, who are fresh off last week’s 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle. While the south coast club are unlikely to qualify for Europe and are in no relegation danger, the Chilean is wary of the threat they pose.
“Southampton are a very good team who are playing without pressure who are very comfortable in the table,” he said. “They cannot be relegated and they can’t qualify for Europe so they are playing with freedom and we are absolutely sure we will have a hard game on Saturday.”
Defender Micah Richards is available for selection, having struggled with a knee injury. He has not played since the FA Cup defeat by Wigan Athletic in early March.
Liverpool versus exes
Meanwhile, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is banking on Liverpool outcasts Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing to help his side arrest their former club’s title charge when the Premier League leaders visit Upton Park on Sunday.
Carroll, who moved from Newcastle United to Liverpool for 35 million pounds ($58.05 million) in January 2011, played only two games for the Reds at the start of last season before manager Brendan Rodgers loaned the striker to West Ham.
The deal was made permanent last May, with the London club paying 15 million pounds but Carroll was injured until January. Since then, the powerful striker may have scored only two goals in 10 games but he has provided a focal point for the attack.
Allardyce told reporters on Friday that had Carroll been fit all season, West Ham, who were in relegation trouble until recently, could have been challenging for a place in Europe.
“It’s a possibility, yes,” he said. “Since the turn of the year, our change of form and results has got better and better and now we’re in the best run we’ve had since we’ve been back in the Premier League. “We’ve got to take that confidence into Sunday’s game and hopefully we can produce one of those performances that has happened many, many times in the Premier League this year.
“Just the other week Palace beat Chelsea, and City lost to Sunderland, things like that can happen.”
West Ham manager praised Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, the Premier League’s leading scorer with 29 goals, as “one of the top two or three in the world” and described Sunday’s opponents as “in terms of form and results, operating at 100 percent”.
Liverpool won their eighth league game in a row last weekend to replace Chelsea at the top of the table and the Merseysiders will be crowned champions for the first time since 1990 if they win their six remaining matches.