Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola urged referees to “protect’ players after Germany international Leroy Sane was injured during the FA Cup win at Cardiff City.

The Premier League leaders secured a 2-0 win over the Championship club to reach the fifth round as Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling struck.

But the Spaniard confirmed Sane could be missed up to a month after Joe Bennett’s foul.

Guardiola said:

“For football in general players are the artists. The only thing they can do is protect them.”

“Referees have to protect – not just mine, all players. Sane will be out for a while. Maybe two or three weeks, or a month, we will see tomorrow. It’s his ankle.

“I know my players, because it’s not just one, there was many. They decided to play in that way. There is one man who has to decide what is correct and what is incorrect. If he doesn’t anything can happen.”

Later on Sunday, Bennett apologised for the tackle with a statement on social media.

He said:

“Just want to apologise to Leroy Sane for my tackle today.”

“I tried to stop the counter-attack and completely mistimed my attempt.

“I didn’t mean to catch him like I did. I hope it’s nothing serious and he recovers quickly.”

At first glance, the impact of Bennett’s challenge was not clear but television replays showed the severity of the tackle, which forced Sane off at half-time.

The Germany international could miss Premier League fixtures against West Bromwich Albion, Burnley Leicester, and his own half to almost Champions League last-16 first-leg in Basel on 13 February.

The foul on the Germany’s star arrived late in the first half, when he ran at pace from his own half to almost reach the Cardiff penalty area.

Bennett was later sent off the field for a second yellow card after a challenge on Brahim Diaz but his four on Sane drew attention, with Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer describing the tackle as “nasty and high”, and BBC Radio 5 live’s Robbie Savage labelling the tackle “terrible”.

Germany’s official Twitter handle account contacted Cardiff shortly after the incident, urging Neil Warnock’s men not to “hurt” their international players – though this tweet was later deleted. In all, the Championship side had 14 fouls in the 90 minutes, two more than the Premier League leaders.

The Citizens have now only lost twice in 36 matches across all competitions and never looked in danger of defeat in the Welsh capital, where they recorded 77% of possession.

The club will be in Monday’s FA CUp fifth-round draw during The One Show on BBC One at 19:00 GMT but not for the first time this season. Guadiola hinted on City’s chances of winning quadruple of the Premier League, Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup trophies.

The ex-Barcelona’s boss side reached the final stage of the Carabao Cup during the midweek, they’re also still in the Champions League and hold a 12-point gap over Manchester United at top of the epl table.

But Guardiola, asked about City’s chances of winning the trophies, the Spaniard said:

“No. They asked me if we would be invincible in the Premier League and I said no. I do not have enough players, I have players out injured. It is impossible.”

He also expressed frustrations with how referees protect players with chances their quadruple chances by saying:

“When you say ‘why didn’t you win four titles?’ I will say ‘I need the players to win four titles’.”