Pep Guardiola wants players to receive more protection from referees

MANCHESTER -- Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has called for referees to be more protective of players as teenager Phil Foden was ruled out for at least a month.

The City midfielder damaged his ankle ligaments in the EFL Cup penalty shootout victory over Leicester on Tuesday night.

The 17-year-old picked up his problem in an innocuous challenge at the King Power Stadium but Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling were fortunate to escape injuries after dangerous tackles during Saturday's 4-1 win over Tottenham.

Harry Kane and Dele Alli were given yellow cards for a studs-up challenge on Sterling and an over-the-ball tackle on De Bruyne respectively.

Guardiola suggested that, while a clampdown on diving is important, officials need to be strong on dangerous challenges.

"[Foden] is injured. It's not good," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of City's game against Bournemouth on Saturday. "The next fixtures he will not be available.

"We were lucky with Raz [Sterling] and Kevin De Bruyne in the last game against Tottenham -- really lucky. We were unlucky with Phil against Leicester. It's ligaments, he could be out for a time."

Guardiola added: "I don't believe the players go to injure another one -- it is impossible to think that - but the football is quick, fast and aggressive and the refs have to follow the rules.

"Everybody is squealing about diving here. If they want to punish those who are diving, it's OK, but the main thing the ref has to do is protect the players.

"I'm not saying protect Manchester City players but protect all the players. We were lucky against Tottenham, and Otamendi put his leg high against Kane so you have to protect Harry Kane.

"Always we are aggressive and sometimes we get injured. All the teams want to win and want to fight in the best way. I have no doubts that Delle Ali and Harry Kane are top-team players. I am not suspicious or thinking they are dangerous players. But the most important thing is to protect the players."

ESPN FC has also been told that defender Eliaquim Mangala broke his nose against Leicester but is fine to play against Bournemouth. He has been training in a protective mask but might not need it tomorrow.

Guardiola could have better news on the injury front with defenders Vincent Kompany and John Stones close to returning to first-team action.

Kompany has played just one of City's last six games after suffering from a calf strain while Stones has been missing for more than a month with a hamstring injury. David Silva has also missed the last two games for personal reasons.

"[Kompany] is much better," Guardiola said. "He's much, much better. I think in the next days he will be ready. I don't know whether tomorrow -- I have to speak to him after the training session, we will see. John Stones is coming back soon as well."

Sterling, who scored a 97th-minute winner when City beat Bournemouth earlier this season, will also be available.

The forward scored twice against Tottenham on Saturday, despite being racially assaulted on the morning of the game with a man subsequently jailed for the incident.

"My wish is that it doesn't happen again," Guardiola said on the incident. "That's all it is. The authorities took a decision, so well done. So hopefully it won't happen again."

City are hoping to maintain their 11-point lead at the top of the table and extend their English League record 16-game winning streak. Guardiola admits he could never have imagined being in such a strong position at this stage of the season.

He said: "I'm glad to be where we are. I would have liked to be here at the beginning of the season, but I didn't expect it. "This is not normal, this is not a situation I am used to. I expect to lose games and drop more points, but I am glad."