Pep Guardiola confirmed on Tuesday that Stones had suffered a muscle problem in training which will put him out of contention for between four and six weeks.
City are already without Stones’ fellow central defender Aymeric Laporte, meaning that Nicolas Otamendi is Guardiola’s only fit and established option in the position.
Fernandinho is expected to slot in alongside Otamendi in Stones’ absence, while academy youngsters Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis will provide cover.
If unavailable for six weeks, Stones will miss City’s first three Champions League group games. Guardiola’s side open their Group C campaign away to Shakhtar Donetsk tomorrow, before Dinamo Zagreb and Atalanta visit Manchester next month.
Domestically, City face Premier League home matches against Watford, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa during Stones’s layoff, as well as travelling away to Everton and Crystal Palace. City also play Preston North End away next week in the EFL Cup.
Stones will target a home league meeting with Southampton on 2 November as a potential comeback. City play Atalanta at the San Siro four days later, with the trip to Anfield on the following weekend.
“It’s a challenge,” Guardiola admitted on Tuesday. “They will do it and do it well because my players are the best. We play with ‘Dinho, or Eric or Taylor. I will create something. That is what it is.
“Football is not how you handle the good situations. It’s how you handle the bad ones. This team has done it in the past. When we won the last two seasons seven titles, nobody gave us anything. We won for ourselves and we are going to do it again.
“The perfect ideal situation does not exist, it’s how you approach these ones. I am ready for the challenge. I like it, I like to live this situation.”
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