Leroy Sane could be out for up to a month with an ankle injury sustained during Sunday’s 2-0 FA Cup win at Cardiff City, according to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
First-half goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling gave the Premier League leaders a routine passage into the fifth round, but victory was soured after to Sane failed to emerge for the second half.
The Germany winger was scythed down by Joe Bennett, the Cardiff full-back who was booked at the time and later sent off for another ugly stoppage-time challenge on teenage substitute Brahim Diaz.
A prolonged absence for Sane would be a significant blow for Guardiola as he chases honours on multiple fronts.
“He will be out for a while. Maybe two or three weeks, one month,” Guardiola told a post-match news conference, with Sane set to undergo and scan to determine the extent of the damage on Monday.
“We will see tomorrow exactly. It is his ankle.”
Wednesday’s Premier League game against West Brom would appear to be a no-go for the 22-year-old, who has 11 goals and 14 assists in all competitions this season, while the first-leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against Basel on February 13 may also come too soon.
City face Arsenal in the EFL Cup final at Wembley on February 25, launching a potentially pivotal seven-day period where they also travel to meet Arsene Wenger’s men in the top flight before hosting Chelsea.
Guardiola remonstrated furiously with referee Lee Mason at full-time and he returned to a familiar theme of asking officials to protect players from aggressive fouls afterwards.
“I said many times, the only thing they have to do is protect the players,” he said. “I can accept the second goal [Manchester City playmaker Bernardo Silva had a strike controversially ruled out for offside] – I do not understand – but please protect the players,” he said.
“Not just the Manchester City players; all the players.
“Some of the players are brave to kick like this and all the referees can do is protect the players. When there is fault, there is fault and when it is dangerous, it is dangerous.
“The players are the artists, we have to protect them. That is why you are here, why I am here. They must protect the players.”
Cardiff boss Neil Warnock observed “they did a few as well” when informed of Guardiola’s complaints.
“He’s in England, isn’t he?” said the 69-year-old. “What do you expect?
“When you’re like that you expect everything to be all pretty and perfect but you don’t get that in England. You get different challenges.”
Nevertheless, Bennett will be forced to look elsewhere if he was expecting sympathy from his manager.
“It is unprofessional from Joe and then to commit one in the 92nd minute. Maybe he does not want to go to Leeds on Saturday,” Warnock told BBC Sport.
“He will be training morning, noon and night, I can tell you that.”