Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will be sidelined until November after suffering a serious knee injury in training on Wednesday.
City confirmed Friday that De Bruyne had injured the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his right knee and would miss three months.
“He will be a big miss,” City manager Pep Guardiola said of the 27-year-old Belgian. “It is not easy to replace Kevin. We are going to try and do our best without him.”
De Bruyne’s injury history
De Bruyne was on crutches Wednesday, then traveled to Barcelona to see a specialist. That’s where the LCL diagnosis was made. The injury will be be treated non-surgically.
De Bruyne should be able to make a full recovery, but it’s noteworthy that the injury is similar to the one that kept him out for over two months in 2016.
Pep Guardiola blames lack of rest
De Bruyne was City’s best player last season en route to a record-breaking Premier League title. He led the English top flight in assists, and developed into a two-way force in his “free 8” role as City topped the table on 100 points. The Citizens were widely considered the greatest EPL team ever.
In accomplishing all that, however, he played 72 games over a 12-plus-month season. After a dangerously short offseason that lasted only a few weeks, he returned to City and came off the bench in a season-opening 2-0 win over Arsenal. Three days later, he suffered the injury.
“My advice to him now would be to rest and take the holidays he didn’t get after the World Cup,” Guardiola said Friday, before bemoaning players’ stressful workloads. “They don’t rest. It was a tough season last season and they come back with a short recovery and we’re demanding from the first moment. … And, of course, human beings have a limit.”
Guardiola would pin blame for the injury exclusively on the truncated offseason. But, he said, “when we demand a lot of the players, I’m sure it can have an influence.
“When you are fresh in your legs after normal vacations, that doesn’t happen.”
What does De Bruyne’s injury mean for Man City?
In De Bruyne’s absence, City will have to rely on David Silva – who himself isn’t yet fully fit – Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan.
Put any two of those three alongside Fernadinho, and City’s midfield is still one of the best, if not the very best, in the Premier League. Bernardo Silva has shown signs of De Bruyne-esque development in year two under Pep Guardiola. Even if De Bruyne were to be out until December, the reigning champions would still be favorites to repeat.
But only an accumulation of injuries, bad luck and regression could derail their title defense. De Bruyne’s injury represents the first hint of adversity. It brings City every so slightly back toward the pack. It cuts into their excellence, and makes a true title race slightly more likely.
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