Premier League

Guardiola eyes Jesus return, tight-lipped on Sanchez transfer

Jesus was carried off with medial knee ligament damage during the 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace on December 31.

Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus could be back in training within two to three weeks and is set to be fit for next month’s Champions League tie against Basel, manager Pep Guardiola said Friday.

Jesus was carried off with medial knee ligament damage during the 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace on December 31 and the initial diagnosis was that he faced up to six weeks out, leaving him in a race to be fit by mid-February. But the Brazil international, 20, has responded well to a visit to Barcelona this week, to be treated by Ramon Cugat, the surgeon Guardiola regularly turns to when his players are battling serious injuries.

“Yesterday, he was in Barcelona with Dr Cugat, and at the end, the news was quite good,” said the City boss, who has been short of striking options since the injury to Jesus. “When we play Basel in the Champions League, he could be ready. I think, in two or three weeks he’ll be ready and with us.”

City, who lead the Premier League by a gaping 15 points, play the Swiss side in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie on February 13. Guardiola was reluctant to comment on his chances of signing Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal during the January transfer window, instead saying that his focus was on maintaining City’s fine form when they travel to Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday.

City remain favourites to sign the Chile forward, who is out of contract at the end of the season and has made clear that he wishes to leave the Emirates Stadium but Manchester United are reported to have joined the race for his signature.

“I understand completely why you ask this question, it’s your job,” said Guardiola. “But you know my answer. I am focused on Liverpool. What’s important is what happens over 90 minutes on the field,” he added. “That is what I want to speak about. The players have two choices: Follow what you (the media) say, or follow me. I hope to convince them to follow what I am talking about. It’s about football, football, football on the pitch.”

The City boss said the match against in-form Liverpool at Anfield would give him a good idea of how far his team could go in the Champions League this season. “It is a real test at Anfield, one of the most prestigious stadiums,” he said. “It’s a big game for us and we’re going to prepare as best as possible. If you want to achieve something good, win titles, you have to not just win but win at these kind of stages. At Stamford Bridge we were able. Old Trafford we were able. We’ve still got tough teams to come. It is such an important game to see if we are able to do big things – especially in the Champions League stages. It means a lot in terms of how complicated it is to play there.”

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