Roberto Mancini would have grimaced when he saw Vincent Kompany limp off early in Manchester City’s 1-0 Europa League defeat against Sporting Lisbon on Thursday.
City’s night in Lisbon ultimately proved to be a frustrating one in more than one respect as Xandao’s cheeky back-heel went beyond Joe Hart to give Sporting a cushion going into the second leg at the Etihad Stadium.
But while a defender was taking the plaudits at one end it was Kompany’s troubles at the other which proved to be the main talking point after the game.
The Belgian international faces a two week lay-off although Mancini was hesitant to put a time frame on his return.
"I hope that for Vinnie, the injury will be short.” Mancini said. “When you have a calf, it can be a big problem.
“I hope he can recover in 10 days, two weeks maximum, but we will see how it is another one or two days. It is his calf and a calf is a bad position (to have an injury)."
Mancini had already hedged his bets as the season nears squeaky bum time, leaving Joleon Lescott on the bench along with Micah Richards. The Italian, most likely fielding Kompany because of the experience he brings in a tough away game, will be ruing that he didn’t rest his skipper instead
The 25-year-old has so far been the pillar on which his side’s success this season has been built around.
While City’s vast array of attacking talent may take the plaudits but it is Kompany and his defensive cohorts that have provided them with the platform for the likes of David Silva, Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero to operate from.
At home, City have been immense. Led by Kompany they have shipped just six goals at the Etihad Stadium this season while on the road just 13 goals have made their way past Hart.
Kompany’s something of a blast from the past in his style alongside the more expansive (and more error-prone) Joleon Lescott, although he remains the better reader of the game out of the two.
Leading the way for his side in terms of clearances made, he averages almost six every game, Kompany is also in a league of his own in terms of blocked shots.
Of course, luckily for Mancini and City they have solid options as cover at the back during Lescott’s brief spell on the sidelines.
Kolo Toure was handed a rare start at the back and could step into the side, although few City fans will be desperate to see Stefan Savic step back into the fold after his fairly disastrous run during City’s last injury crisis at the back.
Unfortunately for City his injury comes at a terrible time with plenty of upcoming games to come. This weekend’s fixture against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium is likely to provide a tough test while he may also miss the return leg against Sporting and the visit of Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium.
More than just his natural ability however, City will miss Kompany’s leadership skills in those games and the calmness he brings at the back; with Manchester United breathing down their necks they cannot afford to slip up. Without Kompany, they are certainly more liable to doing just that without him in their side.