Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes it is “likely” injured England pair Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips will be fit before the World Cup.
Right-back Walker has been out since suffering an abdominal injury in the derby against Manchester United a month ago while midfielder Phillips underwent shoulder surgery in September.
Neither are yet ready to return but, despite the tournament in Qatar beginning in just over three weeks, Guardiola thinks they both still have time.
The City manager said: “It’s likely, from the way they recover. From what I hear in the dressing room, it is likely they can be ready. You don’t play a World Cup every week.”
The issue would appear to be most pressing for Phillips, having been limited to just 14 minutes’ game time this season even before his latest setback.
He has no chance of featuring in Wednesday’s final Champions League group game against Sevilla and the Premier League clash with Fulham on Saturday also seems unlikely.
After that, City have just a Carabao Cup tie against Chelsea and a league visit from Brentford before the break for the World Cup.
“I don’t know,” said Guardiola when asked when Phillips might return. “He’s doing partial training sessions with the team, so not contact yet, but we will see the evolution and the needs.
“I know how important the World Cup is but I’m not going to use a player if they are not ready in physicality or rhythm. We will evaluate if he is in the best condition to play.
“We’ve been impressed with Kyle’s recovery but he is late compared to Kalvin.”
City are also definitely without top scorer Erling Haaland for the visit of Sevilla.
The prolific Norwegian, who has netted 22 times in 16 City appearances, missed Saturday’s victory at Leicester while suffering from a fever and with a foot problem.
Guardiola said: “He feels better but still not 100 per cent. There is no point risking him. Hopefully we can have him against Fulham.”
With City having already secured their place in the last 16, Guardiola is likely to make changes against the Spanish side.
“I have to see the training session but the players who don’t play regularly are going to play,” Guardiola said at a press conference.
One player who could get an opportunity is Julian Alvarez. The Argentina striker has been overshadowed by Haaland since his summer arrival but is happy to be competing with the Norwegian for a place.
Alvarez said: “First and foremost, it’s a privilege playing with him and it is always great to play alongside the best in the world.
“I’ve played with him and without him and I think we can learn from each other both ways. I like how he always wants to bring the best to the team.”
Guardiola, meanwhile, has revealed he intends to enjoy a little downtime during the World Cup but will soon be back on the training field.
He said: “The best way to enjoy the matches is at home with red wine!
“We will have one or two weeks off and then we will come here, maybe go to Abu Dhabi, maybe organise a friendly game.
“It’s not definitive but we will train, come back on November 28 and be ready as much as possible.”