Had it not been for Mohamed Salah, Kevin de Bruyne would have enacted a clean sweep of the individual awards at the end of last season. Manchester City strolled to the Premier League title with a record points tally last term and de Bruyne played a bigger role in that success than anyone else at the Etihad Stadium, besides Pep Guardiola.

This season, however, has been a fragmented one for the Belgian midfielder. De Bruyne has made just four Premier League appearances and went nearly two months without featuring for Manchester City, suffering two separate knee injuries.

Now, however, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for de Bruyne. He came on for the final 15 minutes of the game against Everton at the weekend and with the fixtures coming thick and fast over the winter, the Belgian midfielder will continue to be eased back into the City first team.

At the time of his initial injury, it was predicted that Man City would desperately miss their midfield pass-master. They have coped just fine, though, with Bernardo Silva stepping into the void left by de Bruyne. In fact, Bernardo has done this so effectively that the Portuguese could actually be labelled City’s player of the season so far.

Pep Guardiola will find it difficult to fit Kevin de Bruyne back into his Man City team

This gives Guardiola a problem now that de Bruyne is nearing something close to full fitness. Of course, it’s a problem that most managers would relish, with de Bruyne and Bernardo two of the best central midfielders in the game right now, but it’s a problem nonetheless. How can both be accommodated in the same team alongside David Silva, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan and now Phil Foden, who is starting to break into the first team reckoning.

“We don’t want to be injured but maybe it helped us,” Guardiola explained in a recent interview, arguing that de Bruyne’s injury might actually have a long term benefit for his team, forcing them to become more diverse in their approach. “Now he’s fresh in his mind, he is recovered and now he tries again to avoid the injuries and play regularly. Of course he is going to be important for us, he is a special player for us.”

Barring further aggravation of his injury, de Bruyne will become a first team fixture again at Man City. As well as Bernardo has played in recent weeks and months, he can’t control a game in the way de Bruyne can. It’s no coincidence that with the Belgian out City have been got at in recent matches. When figuring out how to fit de Bruyne back in Guardiola might have to re-evaluate what he looks for in a team. Last season’s player of the season that wasn’t Salah must become City’s player of this season again.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

Join the discussion