Guardiola looks on the bright side of Kevin De Bruyne’s injury
City boss believes the Belgium international will be fresher for second half of season
Manchester City’s manager Pep Guardiola is pleased City are only a point behind the leaders. Photograph: EPA
De Bruyne is back in full training after his second knee problem of the campaign.
The first ruled him out for two months until mid-October and he has not played since 1 November because of the second, although he is in contention for today’s game at home to Everton.
“I think Kevin finished last season exhausted - it was so tough for him,” Guardiola said. “He played a lot of minutes, a lot. It was an incredible performance and after that he went to the World Cup. When he came back I had the feeling he was a little bit tired still, and sometimes people recover quite well, sometimes mentally it takes time.
“So that’s why [although] maybe we don’t want any player to be injured, maybe it helped us. Now he’s fresh in his mind, he is recovered and tries again to avoid the injuries and play regularly. And of course he is going to be important for us; he is a special player.”
De Bruyne and Sergio Agüero, who has missed the past four games with a muscle problem, face late tests. Guardiola is pleased City are only a point behind the leaders, Liverpool, despite having been without De Bruyne for much of the season and Agüero recently.
“We competed with the best starts from Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham – and still we are there,” the manager said. “People [also] say we qualify for the Champions League [knockout] in first place and we are second, one point behind Liverpool having played four games against contenders. The way we played was really good but, of course, we want to be first.
“We cannot be far away because I think they will all drop few points, especially Liverpool – and Arsenal are also 20 games unbeaten. The level increased a lot compared to the last two or three seasons - how the big teams are playing.”
Guardiola defended Gabriel Jesus, who has scored only once in the league – in August – and five times in total for City this season. “The strikers live for scoring goals,” he said. “[but] he’s made a lot of assists, his movement, creating spaces for teammates is there. He’s still he’s a young player, we are going to give him time.
“Last game, for example [against Hoffenheim], he was exhausted but he finished like a full-back, making three challenges, and he’s the only striker in the world who can do that. He’s an extra for our pressing game. We have to help him to provide scoring positions and we are fully confident in him.”
Everton are the only team Guardiola’s City have failed to beat in two home league matches, drawing each. “I would say that in both games we played top,” he said. “Especially the first one, we played really good.”