MANCHESTER, England (AP) — The Club World Cup may come too soon for Kevin De Bruyne to make his return from a hamstring injury, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said on Friday.
De Bruyne has been included in City's squad for the tournament in Saudi Arabia, with their first game scheduled for Dec. 19.
But Guardiola said the Belgium international had yet to return to full training as he continues his rehabilitation after surgery in August.
“He has started to run on the pitch but hasn’t trained with us once,” Guardiola said. “The FIFA Club World Cup is in two or three weeks. Maybe it’s a bit early, but I don’t know.”
De Bruyne hasn't played since Aug. 11, City's first English Premier League game against Burnley, and he was substituted after 23 minutes.
Injury also forced him off after 36 minutes of the Champions League final in June against Inter Milan that City won to complete a treble of trophies last season. He later said his hamstring “snapped.”
City has missed the playmaker in recent weeks as the defending league champions have gone on a four-game winless run and dropped to fourth in the table.
But Guardiola said he would not rush the 32-year-old De Bruyne's recovery.
“Kevin is so important,” he said. “But unfortunately, he’s had a tough injury for three or four months. Don’t put pressure on him. When he’s back we’ll have open arms for him. But I’ve said to the team, do you know how we struggled to get the treble? We were eight or nine points behind Arsenal. With all the problems and injuries we had."
City plays Luton on Sunday, having lost against Aston Villa 1-0 on Wednesday without the suspended Rodri.
Guardiola refused to make excuses for the defeat, which left his team six points off leader Arsenal.
“We didn’t deserve to win against Villa, I don’t need time to reflect," he said. “I don’t need, ‘Oh maybe we can do this.’ We have to do it all together and if Kevin is here, yes, if not, OK.
“Or maybe Rodri’s not here, so I have to find a way when he’s not there. Last season he was almost always there so I have to find a way.”
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James Robson, The Associated Press