Manchester City are facing the prospect of "a few weeks" without Sergio Aguero, according to Pep Guardiola, who must reconfigure his attack for key matches in the talismanic Argentine's absence.
A thigh injury sustained in City's 2-1 win over Chelsea on Saturday is set to deprive Guardiola of the man who has scored nine goals in 12 Premier League appearances this season as the champions take on Newcastle United, Burnley and local rivals Manchester United.
Aguero's injury thrusts Gabriel Jesus into the spotlight, giving the 22-year-old Brazil international an opportunity to build on his record of four league starts and three goals this term.
That City have a player of Jesus' quality in reserve speaks volumes about the strength of Guardiola's squad, but with Liverpool already nine points clear of them in the table there is no room for error in the title race.
City's reliance on Aguero has become almost second nature over the last nine years, but many are predicting a shake-up at Etihad Stadium as he approaches his 32nd birthday in June.
The next few weeks may provide Guardiola with valuable insight into what a post-Aguero future might hold for his side.
GOALS NEVER FAR AWAY WHEN AGUERO IS AROUND
Aguero has scored 51 goals in 70 Premier League appearances since August 2017, giving him an average of a goal every 103.1 minutes.
Contrast that to Jesus' return of 23 goals in 68 appearances - an average of a goal every 137.2 minutes - and you can see why City fans might baulk at the thought of going without Aguero for any length of time.
And it is not just deadly finishing that makes Aguero so indispensable; he is one of City's most creative players in and around the box and has created 86 chances compared to Jesus' 46 since August 2017.
Aguero's selfless play has given him a goal involvement rate of one every 78.5 minutes, whereas Jesus is more of a poacher with a goal involvement rate of one every 105.2 minutes.
Further stats in Aguero's favour include a better duel success rate (44.0 compared to 41.3) and a slightly more accurate passing record (83.5 versus 81.5), making the experienced Argentine a more attractive option when City require more than just goals.
JESUS SHAPING UP TO BE CITY'S NEW SAVIOUR
Ask any City fan about their most potent goal threat and they will most likely wax lyrical about Aguero's prowess, but Opta's data since August 2017 presents a strong case to back the view that Jesus a comparable asset.
When you include blocked shots, Aguero has an intimidating shot conversion rate of 20.1 per cent but Jesus is not far behind, having found the net with 18.3 per cent of his attempts on goal during the same period.
Jesus has also made more tackles (34 compared to Aguero's 31) and has a higher dribble success rate (60.2 per cent compared to 58.3 per cent) than Aguero, and he can even boast more shots on target per 90 minutes than his South American team-mate.
Given that Jesus plays with far less regularity than Aguero, he remains remarkably consistent, hitting the target with 2.0 shots every 90 minutes, while Aguero works the goalkeeper with an average of 1.7 shots per 90.
CITY THRIVE WITH JESUS IN THEIR SIDE
Direct comparisons between Aguero and Jesus are limited in their usefulness, given that the former plays so much more regularly and that they each have distinct styles of play.
Perhaps more telling is City's track record when either player is present or missing, and the good news for supporters is that their effect on the team appears remarkably similar.
City's team stats improve when Jesus starts league games compared to when he does not, with average goals for rising from 2.6 to 2.9, win percentage increasing from 79.3 to 87.1, and points-per-game going up from 2.4 to 2.7.
Likewise when Aguero is in the starting line-up, City do better - although not across as many different metrics.
Average goals for jumps from 2.5 to 2.7 when Pep includes Aguero from the start and win percentage rises from 81.5 to 82.3, but points-per-game stays at a steady 2.5 and average goals against increases from 0.7 to 0.8.
All of which should go some way to soothing the fears of City supporters for whom Aguero is seen as a saviour, and remind them to make room in their hearts for Jesus.