How Man City can cope if Pep Guardiola’s two injury fears are realised
Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker both limped off in City’s hard-fought draw at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday. Fernandinho and Nathan Ake replaced the duo, as Pep Guardiola’s side just about coped with the hosts’ pressure to progress to the Champions League semi-final.
With much of the season to go, Guardiola will hope that the injuries are not as bad as first feared. City face Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday, while they are also battling with Jurgen Klopp’s team for the Premier League title.
After overcoming Atletico in the Champions League quarter-finals, City now have a tie with 13-time winners Real Madrid in the semi-final. The Citizens were defeated by Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea in the final last year and need the squad to be at full strength to go one better this season.
De Bruyne is a massive loss for Guardiola, as the Belgian has scored 14 goals and provided eight assists in all competitions this term. De Bruyne scored in the three consecutive matches prior to City’s trip to Madrid, including the first-leg goal against Diego Simeone’s side.
De Bruyne is a vital goalscorer for Guardiola’s side, but in the past two seasons his teammates have stepped up to his mantle. Last season, Ilkay Gundogan was everyone’s go-to fantasy football player, as the German found his goalscoring touch.
The 31-year-old enjoyed his most prolific season in a City shirt, scoring 17 goals in all competitions. In the absence of De Bruyne — who was on the treatment table for large parts of last season — Gundogan went on an incredible run from December to February, scoring 11 Premier League goals in 12 matches.
Bernardo Silva has also displayed an ability to provide goals this season, enjoying his own goalscoring purple patch between October and December where he scored six Premier League goals in eight Premier League matches.
To make matters worse for Guardiola, shortly after De Bruyne was forced off in Madrid, Walker suffered a knee injury. Having started City’s last five fixtures in all competitions — keeping three clean sheets in the process — the England’s international’s absence would be harshly felt.
Joao Cancelo has often been used at left-back to accommodate Walker this season, but the Portuguese international seamlessly transitioned back to his favoured side to maintain the clean sheet in Madrid.
Ake, who has developed into a trusted option for Guardiola this season, came on at left-back for the remainder of the match, defending valiantly in the dying moments. While the former Bournemouth star has made five appearances at left-back this term, Guardiola may opt to keep Cancelo at left-back and play John Stones at right-back, and has done this on four occasions already this season.
The return of Ruben Dias, and the option of Oleksandr Zinchenko, mean City have multiple defensive options to account for the loss of Walker.
Guardiola will hope that both Walker and De Bruyne’s injuries are not serious, but he confirmed after the Atletico game that City were “in big trouble” with the duo doubts for this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final.
The emergence of alternative options will at least give the City boss hope that his squad can cope.