Roberto Mancini believes only Barcelona could cope with the lengthy absentee list that has crippled his Manchester City squad.
The likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Vincent Kompany were all missing during City's midweek first-leg defeat to Liverpool in the Carling Cup.
Defender Kolo Toure did not feature while Italian striker Mario Balotelli was substituted before half time due to an ankle problem.
Only Silva is expected to be fit for Monday night's game away to Wigan Athletic and Mancini admits it is a 'difficult' time for all concerned.
City's boss has spent vast amounts of money in the transfer market in recent seasons, but he thinks the club are still up to five years away from having the strength in depth to match Barcelona.
"Maybe Barcelona could. Manchester City no," Mancini said of his depleted City squad.
"In four or five years, Manchester City probably yes. But not now.
"When I said one month ago that December and January would be the crucial months it was because I know football.
"Every year in every squad you have one difficult moment. At the moment we are not strong and we have lost important players, so it is difficult."
Nedum Onuoha's proposed move away from the Etihad is on hold due to Vincent Kompany's suspension, although Mancini still believes a transfer is in the player's interests.
"Now he is here because we need him for two or three weeks until Vincent comes back," he concluded.
"After that there is a chance he goes because that would be better for him."