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Pellegrini backs City defence in Kompany's absence ahead of derby showdown

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellerini has hinted that captain Vincent Kompany will not return to his starting line-up for Sunday's derby against Manchester United.

Kompany suffered a calf injury during City's Champions League defeat to Juventus in September and went against his manager's wishes in returning to action for Belgium's Euro 2012 qualifier against Israel, despite missing all five of his club's matches in the intervening period.

Following this month's international break, Kompany looked on as an unused substitute when City beat AFC Bournemouth 5-1 and only came on in injury time against La Liga side Sevilla following Kevin De Bruyne's late winner on Wednesday.

At a pre-match media conference ahead of the top-of-the-table clash at Old Trafford, Pellegrini offered his latest assurances that there are no problems between himself and Kompany – maintaining his stance that the defender's omission relates to him being short of full fitness.

However, he praised the form of incumbent centre-back duo Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi and said he would pick "the best players for the moment".

"I don’t have a problem with Vincent," Pellegrini said. "Every week I choose the starting XI that’s best for that game.

"Other players must wait. It's exactly the same for all the players.

"I'm not punishing Vincent. I have no problems in my relations with Vincent.

"After one month, five weeks without playing [or] training you must be fit. It is important to work some days before return to the team."

He added: "It's crucial to play with the best players for the moment. Football is moments – now, Mangala and Otamendi are doing well."

Pellegrini confirmed that there would be no alteration to a significant list of injury absentees for the 170th Manchester derby – with influential playmaker David Silva (ankle), remaining on the sidelines alongside Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, Fabian Delph (all hamstring) and Gael Clichy (ankle).

The Chilean pushed free-scoring midfielder De Bruyne into a centre-forward role during the closing stages against Sevilla – an ultimately inspired switch, which he believes underlines City's capacity to cope amid reduced attacking options.

"We can play in different ways and we can win," Pellegrini added. "Kevin De Bruyne is not a striker but he could play as a striker if we need him to.

"Last season we had a lot of different ways to play – when our strikers were injured, we played with [James] Milner [in attack] and scored goals."