Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini dismissed the notion of a rift with Vincent Kompany after again leaving his captain on the bench for the last-gasp 2-1 Champions League win over Sevilla on Wednesday.
Kompany suffered a calf injury during City’s opening Group D defeat to Juventus and did not feature until this month’s international break, when he went against Pellegrini’s wishes in playing for Belgium in their concluding Euro 2016 qualifying win over Israel.
On his return to club duty, Kompany was an unused substitute in Saturday’s 5-1 win over AFC Bournemouth and he only entered the fray on Wednesday to shore up the defence after Kevin De Bruyne struck a stoppage-time winner.
But Pellegrini maintained that his main concern is for the 29-year-old’s long-term fitness, while he also praised the performances of current centre-back pairing Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi in Kompany’s absence.
“I think that Nicolas Otamendi and Mangala played very well, both of them,” the Chilean said.
“We played very well against Bournemouth and Newcastle – we won 5-1 and 6-1.
“Vincent is coming back after a month, maybe it was a risk to give him the responsibility to play in this important game.
“For me, I try to [pick] every game and every week the team that I think are in this moment ready to play.”
Pellegrini was able to reflect on a tactical move that did not invite such close scrutiny at his post-match media conference – the decision to withdraw Wilfried Bony, the only recognised striker in his matchday squad, in the closing stages and push goal hero De Bruyne into a central attacking role.
“We tried to make a change because we were not arriving to their box, we were not creating chances,” he explained.
“We put Kevin in front with Yaya and fortunately we created that play that ended with the goal.”