Pep Guardiola admits he has a dilemma over Sergio Aguero.
The Manchester City boss is convinced the club’s record goalscorer will get back to his best with games and time, and he will be patient with him after a season ravaged by injury and illness.
But Guardiola concedes he cannot pick his side based on sentiment and he must give preference to the players in form as City chase glory on four fronts.
Aguero made his first start for four months as the Premier League leaders claimed their 20th consecutive win in all competitions with a 2-1 victory over West Ham at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The Argentinian missed the start of the season after knee surgery and then saw his comeback complicated by further problems in that joint, a hamstring injury and by falling ill to coronavirus.
He returned to action as a late substitute against Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday before he was given 61 minutes against the Hammers.
It was a quiet comeback but that did not surprise Guardiola.
“Sergio has been one year injured,” Guardiola said. “It is a lot of time. He played two or three games and then got injured again and was out.
“I always think we need him in this part of the season, in the right moments, because he has a special talent and quality. He’s going to help.
“But we have not denied that he needs time. The positive is he played 50-60 minutes and that is good for his legs. He has to continue training good and be positive.
“There will be games that will be tight and difficult and we will need ‘Kun’. We need guys who can score a goal and the best guy in those terms is him.”
Giving Aguero the game time he needs is not straightforward as Guardiola has a star-studded squad at his disposal that is almost fully fit.
“He knows it from day one,” said Guardiola, who made seven changes on Saturday.
“I know Sergio is so important for us. He is the most important person for this club, he scored the most important goal, he was part of all the success.
“We want to help him but at the same time, Raheem (Sterling), Phil (Foden) and Bernardo (Silva) didn’t play. I try to handle it for everyone to be involved and part of it.
“Some players deserved to play but didn’t. That is why it is difficult for all the managers when you have a squad.
“You have to be patient and use the good moments as much as possible. Players performing well have more chances to play than the other ones.”
One of the casualties of the form of other players this season has been 20-year-old centre-back Eric Garcia.
The Spaniard impressed after being given a chance towards the end of last season but he has made just nine appearances this term.
It was thought his fall down the pecking order had much to do with his decision to refuse a new contract amid interest from boyhood club Barcelona, whom he looks set to join on a free transfer this summer.
But Guardiola said: “Eric Garcia is like a son. He was a guy last season that after lockdown was our best central defender. He never made a mistake and played in the quarter-final of the Champions League.
“He’s going to play in Barcelona and that is not an average player – he is a top player. He was not selected in the last two games and it broke my heart.
“That is why it is difficult for all the managers when you have a squad. You cannot imagine what it means.”