MANCHESTER: Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City can survive without Kevin De Bruyne after the inspirational Belgian playmaker was ruled out for up to six weeks due to a knee injury.
De Bruyne sustained ligament damage to his left knee in the closing stages of City's League Cup victory over Fulham at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.
It was just the second start this season for De Bruyne, who injured ligaments in his right knee during the first week of the campaign, forcing him to the sidelines for the next two months.
The latest problem will keep him out for "five to six" weeks but, while City boss Guardiola is upset about De Bruyne's absence, he is confident that it will not prove too damaging to the Premier League leaders' bid to win silverware.
"We are a stronger team with Kevin than without him. But we have to live without him and we have to be there when he comes back, that's all we can do," he told reporters on Friday.
"I was so sad. I didn't see him after the game. The doctor said he was sad - today he was less sad and the next day he'll be strong again.
"He'll spend the time with his new boy and his family. Hopefully after the international break, there'll be two or three more games and after that he'll be back.
"By then hopefully we'll be in the knockout stages of the Champions League when he comes back and up there in the Premier League.
"That will help us in the last part that he will be fresh in mind and body and help us reach our targets."
Even though De Bruyne's period of convalescence will include an international break, he is still facing the prospect of missing seven games for his club, including the Manchester derby and a trip to Chelsea.
And the question remains whether Guardiola might have been advised to take De Bruyne off before the 86th minute against Fulham, when he was injured in a collision with Tim Fosu-Mensah.
No Messi move
"Football is football, it's a dynamic game, a lot of contact and it sometimes happens," Guardiola said.
"This kind of injury is unlucky, I think he's so strong and he's recovered so well, the other was more dangerous than this one. He'll recover well. We have an excellent department.
"I'm more concerned about when it's muscular injuries, that's more concern. When it's a trauma he's unlucky with that situation."
Guardiola has also responded to reports in Spain linking City, once again, with a move for Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.
And, while City's vast financial wealth would obviously mean such a transfer would be possible, Guardiola insists he will never attempt to sign the Argentine icon from his former club.
"I said many, many times since I came here, when I left Barcelona, Bayern and now City, that never have I asked Lionel Messi to join Bayern Munich or here," he said.
"I never went to both clubs and said I want this player. Never. I know how important he is to Barcelona.
"Myself I have never spoken, never made the first step - and I'd never do that. I've said one thousand times about that."
Guardiola has also repeated his intention to persuade Spanish teenager Brahim Diaz to sign a new contract with City after he scored twice against Fulham, his first senior goals for the club.
Talks are ongoing with the 19-year-old who is understood to be concerned about the lack of first team opportunities in City's star-studded team.
"We want him. It's a market and it's what it is. We go to other clubs and buy players, we try to take care of them, we try to give them the best education and facilities and we try to do everything," he said.