There is a brewing injury crisis at Manchester City and there can't be many worse times for that than ahead of facing Liverpool.

Though City are sitting at the top of the table and are already qualified for the Champions League knock-out stages, there have been signs of frailty this season. The Blues have already been defeated by title rivals Arsenal and dropped points at Chelsea. The last thing they need now is to fail to beat another contender in Liverpool.

It's not been ideal preparation for Pep Guardiola, though, as the international break has brought with it a spate of injuries. Erling Haaland, Ederson, Mateo Kovacic, Matheus Nunes, Nathan Ake and Sergio Gomez have all picked up knocks over the last fortnight.

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The severity of the injuries is not yet clear nor if they will be available for Saturday but the prospect of going into the match without so many key players is a daunting one. Especially as John Stones was already sidelined.

Thankfully the defender's muscle injury wasn't as bad as first feared and he hopefully won't be out for a prolonged amount of time but it's still not set in stone when he will be back in action. The sooner the better for City.

Though City got off to a strong start with six successive league wins, they were far from their best and the side often looked off-kilter and off-beat. Early season rustiness, adapting to key summer departures and new players settling in all played their part but the absence of Stones was massive.

Without him, Guardiola has to change up the tactical approach that served City so well last season. Instead of Stones moving into a central area to provide midfield cover and additional passing lanes, he opted to push Kyle Walker further up the right flank and tuck Phil Foden inside.

This didn't have the same protection as Stones did in a deep midfield position and it made the side imbalanced. It was only when Stones returned from injury to put things back to how they were did City registered their best displays of the season against Manchester United and Bournemouth.

It shows how crucial Stones is as nobody can fulfil the role like he can. Manuel Akanji is doing his best to fill in but he doesn't have the same high technical level in possession.

Perhaps one player with the potential to do so is Josko Gvardiol. The £76.6m summer signing has had a slow start to life at City but has shown flashes of his class on the ball when attacking down the left flank. However, Guardiola does not yet think he's ready to take up the Stones role.

"Still he didn't prove it in training sessions and some drills that we do to see how you move in more central positions," said Guardiola earlier this month "Still I didn't see it.

"Maybe in the future, because he is 21 years old and at the beginning we didn't expect John could do that. The fact he can do that because he has been here eight years and many examples of training and concepts is there. Josko has just been with us for a few months so we need more time."

Stones has been honed and guided by Guardiola for nearly a decade. It makes sense that Gvardiol isn't at his level just yet. But, if Stones is going to be sidelined again, City need him to get there quickly.