Fit-again de Bruyne eager to make up for lost time

LONDON • Kevin de Bruyne can not wait to play a key role in Manchester City's bid for a third successive Premier League title, having played a full part in pre-season to indicate his fitness.

The Belgium midfielder was their best player in their 2017-18 Premier League title triumph, but played only a bit-part role in last term's unprecedented domestic treble success due to knee and muscular injuries.

He spent five months on the sidelines and made just 22 starts in all competitions, but showed how influential he can be when fit he was named the man of the match in City's FA Cup final 6-0 hammering of Watford in May.

City have bolstered their squad with the £62 million (S$103.9 million) club record signing of Spain midfielder Rodri from Atletico Madrid, and added Portugal full-back Joao Cancelo for £60 million, with Brazil defender Danilo moving the opposite way to Juventus.

The prospect of a peak de Bruyne driving City forward is tantalising for Pep Guardiola, whose players kick off their title defence at West Ham today.

De Bruyne said he is confident his injury issues are behind him after shining on their tour to Asia.

"I'm fine. What happened last year happens to everybody. I have been a professional for 11 years now and had one season where I had some injuries," he said.

"I just get on with it. Now I feel good. I'm happy I could play a whole pre-season."



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With de Bruyne back, City look even more formidable - quite a feat after they amassed 198 points over their last two terms.

If they can retain their crown, Guardiola's men will become only the fifth team in English football to clinch three consecutive top-flight titles, after Huddersfield, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United (twice), who remain the only side to do so in the Premier League era.

While City suffered a big blow after it was revealed on Thursday that Leroy Sane had suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury which will require surgery and is likely to rule him for several months, de Bruyne believes his teammates can maintain their level of play even without the German winger.

He added: "You don't need to be better, you need to be consistent. At the end of the year, with all the competitions, maybe you don't need 95 or 100 points.

"Maybe teams get more points out of each other and you win it with 85, just because the competition is that high.

"You need to be just one point ahead of the other ones and whatever you need to do, you need to do. Liverpool will be up there, but they all will be there. We have to be consistent."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2019, with the headline 'Fit-again de Bruyne eager to make up for lost time'. Subscribe