LONDON: Manchester City believe they have the handsome resources to thrive in the absence of Kevin de Bruyne but could they now discover that life without their injured midfield gem is more uncomfortable than they suspect?
With the second round of Premier League matches upon us this weekend, the knee injury to De Bruyne has cast a rare cloud over the Etihad, so instrumental was the Belgian in leading the champions’ all-conquering 100-point campaign last season.
Naturally, Pep Guardiola’s men will still expect to despatch Huddersfield Town comfortably enough on Sunday but it would be no surprise if they felt just a little fazed by the prospect that De Bruyne may be out of action for a substantial period.
He was City’s warmest comfort blanket in the previous campaign, having played, mostly superbly, in all but one of their 38 league matches.
He’s already made a mark in their first game of this season when he came on for half an hour at Arsenal just when they seemed to be losing their way a little and helped provide the calm authority to steer them to a crucial opening away win.
“Kevin is a great player and it’s just unfortunate that it’s happened to him in training but there’s more than enough depth in the squad,” said team mate Kyle Walker.
“We don’t just rely on one player. Obviously it’s a big loss but we’ve got more than enough cover.”
Of course, that’s true but De Bruyne was so influential last season that it may require a player like Bernardo Silva, so impressive against Arsenal, to properly grasp the mantle.
After their false start, Arsenal’s new manager Unai Emery will doubtless feel an urgent need to bring back at least a point from the match of the weekend in the London derby at Chelsea.
The Blues made a reassuring start to life under their own new, more relaxed Italian boss Maurizio Sarri in the 3-0 win at Huddersfield.
It could be a testing return back to his old Stamford Bridge stomping ground for Petr Cech, whose nervy performance against Manchester City brought him plenty of criticism but only a vote of support from
Emery, who hailed the 36-year-old’s “experience and quality.”
Rampant Liverpool, the initial leaders even if only by dint of the four goals they crashed past a feeble West Ham United, should receive a much sterner test on Monday at Crystal Palace, 2-0 winners at newly-promoted Fulham in their opener.
The focus again on Sunday will be on Manchester United, amid English media reports of a fractured relationship between manager Jose Mourinho and his French World Cup winner Paul Pogba and denials from the club that they have any such problem.