Jose Mourinho believes the absence of Sergio Aguero in Saturday's (10 September) Manchester derby will make things more difficult for his United side, rather than help matters. However, the Portuguese boss has revealed he has his full squad ready to help him in his first Premier League encounter with Pep Guardiola.
Aguero misses the game after being hit with a three-game ban by the FA over his actions in a 3-1 victory against West Ham United. The Argentine's absence is a major blow for Guardiola, with the forward scoring six times in four games so far this season.
However, Mourinho says the ban makes his job harder as he has no idea how Guardiola will line up without his star man. Kelechi Iheanacho is the most obvious like-for-like replacement, but the Catalan could opt to deploy a false 9 instead as he often did at Barcelona.
"It changes because it is more difficult," Mourinho said in the press conference ahead of the game. "When Aguero is available we know that Aguero plays. We know their formation and what their dynamic is. Nobody has doubts. When a player like him is ready he plays."
"At this moment he doesn't play. They have a very rich squad full of options and now Guardiola can has many different decisions. One thing is if he decides to play with Iheanacho. Another thing is if he decides to play with [Raheem] Sterling. Another one is for example if he decides to play with [David] Silva as a fake number nine in between the lines. So they have so many options that for us in the preparation of the game we have to go step by step. We have to go situation after situation because we try to reduce the unpredictability of the game. We know they have to so many options so to try to do that job for the players is more difficult. It looks a little bit of a contradiction but without Aguero it is more difficult."
In an effort to fight this unpredictable system, Mourinho will have all his first-team players available. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Luke Shaw had been labelled as doubts following knocks picked up on international duty.
The Armenian sustained up an injury during his national side's 3-0 friendly defeat to the Czech Republic on 31 August. Shaw, meanwhile, was withdrawn from the England squad as a precaution after he suffered a calf problem during training.
But Mourinho said: "Everybody is available. I'm not saying Micki is ready to play 90 minutes but he is ready to help us. There are no injuries."
"Everybody is available," Mourinho reiterated. "It's not the same as if we were here all week and working, resting and not travelling, but there are no injuries and everybody has returned safely and on time for at least one training session. Everybody is ready and wants to play."
However, Mourinho did express some concerns about the fitness of his South American players. Yet, Antonio Valencia, who has been first-choice at right-back for the opening games of the season, has arrived in Manchester just 24 hours before kick-off following his commitments with Ecuador.
"They're available, but Antonio [Valencia] was able to get one flight direct to Madrid and then to London and Manchester – an easy one. Sergio [Romero] and Marcos [Rojo] went around the globe! But they all came back in time for training this morning."