Tuesday 25 April 2017

De Bruyne injury sullies perfect 10 for City

Swansea City 1 Manchester City 3

Injured Kevin De Bruyne speaks with Manchester City’s physios. Photo: Getty
Injured Kevin De Bruyne speaks with Manchester City’s physios. Photo: Getty

Jim White

Kevin de Bruyne has been ruled out for four weeks after scans revealed the Manchester City playmaker has torn a muscle in his hamstring.

The Belgium international hobbled out of Saturday's 3-1 win at Swansea in the 80th minute and underwent a further examination yesterday which confirmed his, and City's, worst fears.

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City shoots to score his sides first goal. Photo: Getty
Sergio Aguero of Manchester City shoots to score his sides first goal. Photo: Getty

De Bruyne will travel to Barcelona today for further scans but his club are already resigned to him missing a month of football and a string of high-profile matches for the league leaders.

City face Celtic on Wednesday before clashes with Tottenham, Everton, Barcelona, Southampton and Manchester United in the next month and De Bruyne's injury - arriving just when he was in a rich vein of form - will be sorely felt.

It is one of the few clouds on City's horizon at present. Fans made giddy by 10 consecutive victories under Pep Guardiola have adapted The Dave Clark Five's 'Glad All Over' in homage to their new leader, so for the last 20 minutes of their victory over Swansea, the Liberty Stadium rocked to the strains of "Guardiola, we've got Guardiola".

And it is understandable why. Since the Spaniard's arrival in Manchester, City have been flying. This victory over a resolute home side was their 10th on the spin this season. Finally, eight years after the Abu Dhabi takeover first hinted at the possibility, the fans believe they have a manager capable of delivering football domination.

Wayne Routledge of Swansea City is fouled by John Stones of Manchester City. Photo: Getty
Wayne Routledge of Swansea City is fouled by John Stones of Manchester City. Photo: Getty

Not that Guardiola is yet willing to accept such a notion.

"I am very happy, yes," he smiled. "But I would be even happier if this was May. We have a long way to go."

It may be early in the marathon, but what is already clear is that Guardiola is presiding over a City side bristling with confidence. Sure, he may have jettisoned some old crowd favourites, sure he and Yaya Touré's agent are unlikely to be exchanging cards come Christmas time, but those in whom he has invested his trust are blooming.

Until he hobbled off De Bruyne was once again a fizzing midfield presence. Returning from suspension, the rapier-like Sergio Aguero scored two more goals to take his season's tally to 11 from just six matches. But perhaps the most significant pointer to the Guardiola revolution came in the identity of the scorer of the third goal. It was Raheem Sterling, the player who, only last June in an England shirt in France, was perfecting an impression of the Invisible Man.

Sterling's was a telling goal, one which spoke loudly of the player's improvement under the new manager's tuition. With Swansea pressing for an equalizer their play suggested they deserved, the ball was cleared from a corner and found him on the halfway line. He tore forward and jiggled his way past the last defender before tucking the ball home. It was the kind of ruthless execution that has rarely been associated with him.

Not that his manager is yet wholly satisfied. "I think he can be more decisive in front of goal, he can focus more," he suggested.

It is this perfectionist streak in their boss which so appeals to the City fans. A year ago it is not fanciful to suggest this Swansea side might have turned City over.

Suddenly playing as if all the uncertainty surrounding their coach Francisco Guidolin was entirely fictional, the home side were full of ambition and drive. They asked all sorts of questions of City, with Fernando Llorente's rapidly equalizing Aguero's opening goal following an untimely slip by Bacary Sagna.

But, even as they passed the ball slickly, what Swansea did not have were finishers on the same level of their visitors, particularly Agüero. What has pleased Guardiola has been his players' willingness to adapt to the system he has imposed. In the midst of a training ground revolution, he said, they had every excuse not to have gelled so quickly. Instead, they are heading to Glasgow with an unsullied record.

"From the beginning they start to work with a lot of personality," he said of his players. "We are far (from where he wants them to be). We would be worrying if we are close."

The rest of the Premier League has been warned.

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